5 criticisms of Mac App Store (and why they're wrong)

Here are some of the Mac App Store criticisms I've seen and why they're wrong (or at the very least probably shortsighted).

The Mac App Store has the potential to breathe new life into the Mac platform. With Mac marketshare rising and there being a growing number of developers with skill in Objective-C from the iOS side of things, the time is definitely right for a centralized, and familiar-looking app delivery model for the Mac. However, since Apple released the Mac App Store guidelines similar to those for iOS, there has been a fair bit of criticism going around. Here are some of the criticisms I've seen and why they're wrong (or at the very least probably shortsighted).

1) The 70/30 Split

The Mac App Store borrows a familiar pricing scheme from the App Store for iOS, giving developers a 70 per cent cut of app sales. On an iOS device, where there is no alternative to the App Store for downloading apps (beyond jailbreaking your device), the 70/30 split has been widely accepted as being fair to developers. On Mac, however, developers have always been free to sell their applications directly to consumers and not have to share their sales revenue with Apple. Why would a developer want to start giving up 30 per cent of their sales?

The App Store will give apps a much higher visibility, presumably boosting sales. Additionally, the terms of the Mac App Store do not, thankfully, disallow developers from selling their apps elsewhere (from their own website, for example). Additionally, there is nothing in the agreement that states you can't sell your app for a lower price elsewhere, so the 30 per cent Apple tax could be potentially subsidized by a higher price on the App Store. Buy an app from the App Store for convenience, to always keep it up to date, or so you don't have to enter your credit card info over and over again at different sites. Or if you're a savvy consumer looking to get the best possible price you could always have the option to buy it straight from the developer.

2) What About Java?

The App Store review guidelines state "apps that use deprecated or optionally installed technologies will be rejected." This essentially outlaws Java apps from the App Store and locks developers into using Objective-C. This comes after the announcement that Apple will be discontinuing its custom ported Java packages for OS X after the current release.

Java apps on Mac are slower and bulkier than their native Objective-C counterparts. They require an additional installation and Apple wants to deliver a Mac App Store experience similar to its iOS brethren, in which stability, security, and UI consistency are highly valued by the review team. Basically, Apple wants to give users of the Mac App Store a certain confidence in quality; for its apps to be as "Mac-like" as possible which is more simply attained by using the native Objective-C. If a developer really wants to distribute their Java app on Mac however, there is still nothing stopping them- though with Apple's deprecation announcement the ball is really in Oracle's court now to keep Java on OS X alive.

3) The Use of Non-public APIs

"Apps that use non-public APIs or include undocumented or hidden features inconsistent with the description of the app will be rejected" Presumably in regards to this section of the agreement, one developer at prolific Mac software house AmbrosiaSW told Informationweek "the restrictions [...] may make it impossible for a number of our applications to be submitted." Some examples may be Ambrosia's video screenshot tool Snapz Pro X, or universal audio recording tool WireTap. In fact, a many of the more "interesting" Mac apps probably rely heavily on the use undocumented APIs.

Apple doesn't make certain APIs public for a reason. Their use is subject to unreliable behavior and could lead to security holes. Apple wants to give users a sense of comfort in knowing apps in the App Store are stable and won't compromise security. Still, a lot of the more hackish Mac apps potentially use undocumented APIs, and no one's arguing they're not cool. They'll always be out there, you just might have to search a little harder.

4) "Objectionable" Content

Once again, Apple is putting their brand of censorship on apps they're willing to sell. You can see why Apple wouldn't want to list porn apps in their App Store, but censorship is always a slippery slope and bound to step on some toes.

What is "objectionable" to some is not to others. Still, Apple is hedging their bets on the fact that the more useful apps shouldn't be offensive to anyone- to which they're probably right. It's highly subjective, and bound to annoy some developers, but ultimately the safer road.

5) "Race to the Bottom" Pricing

Mac apps tend to be more expensive than ones for iOS, of which the majority are either free or under $5. With the added visibility and likely higher sales volume in the Mac market brought on by the App Store, will developers have to drop their prices on Mac apps to stay competitive? On a related note, will we start to see more iOS-developers-gone-Mac bring in more casual mobile-like apps to the platform?

Sure, Mac developers may have to adjust to a more competitive market in which they get a smaller cut than they were used to. But if the Mac App Store is anywhere near as successful as the iOS App Store (proportionally to users), I would expect a huge boon for Mac developers and users alike in the long term.

Follow Mike Keller and GeekTech on Twitter.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MacAppleMac OSapple iphonehardware systemsdesktop pcssoftwareoperating systems

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mike Keller

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?