The Indie Developer and the Mac App Store

There has been a significant amount of chatter recently around the Mac App Store and not only its future but also the future of many of the apps that currently live within.

The issue is nuanced and can be as complex as you want it to be; there are many more blog posts out there that do a far better job of giving context and recommendations of change such as this one here (a must-read for the Mac Developer) and this one too.

I love Milen’s thoughts because they are not only comprehensive but fair as he also provides context for what has previously happened historically in the MAS (“Mac App Store”).

So why do I care? Obviously I should care, right?

Yes and no. I can insofar as anything that globally happens to the MAS will directly impact my ability to ship product to waiting customers. This is the primary function of the MAS, full stop. If a developer was looking for something more than they have gotten the motive and intent of Apple completely wrong.

So, the question then is this for every Mac developer out there: “Is the MAS the right place for me?”

For the indie developer I think the answer is obvious – a resounding “Yes”.

Why? Because for the indie developer the answer is one of distribution, pure and simple. The challenge that most indie developers have is their inability to get their app in front of people since their personal platforms or spheres of influence or community might be limited and small.

The MAS allows even the newest and most unknown software developer have a stage presence (even if it is in the metaphorical “corner” spot). I liken this to just being present at a big Expo or Conference. Having a booth there, even if it’s not the biggest and most opulent (and gaudy) can have a major impact on marketing, brand awareness, and naturally conversion and sales.

If I were to add anything more to my argument for the indie developer to use the MAS it’s this: The time required to develop function and robust ecommerce experiences, support systems, and all the other software and technical requirements to sell outside of the MAS is probably not worth the time and effort, especially since the product itself hasn’t even proven viability.

Take, for instance, my own decision to move forward with the MAS: I do not have time nor energy to create a robust experience outside of the MAS for potential customers at this point in time. And, I wouldn’t want to spend all that time without seeing if anyone really cares about the app to begin with.

If I were to use another (weak) metaphor it would be akin to installing a Whole Foods or Walmart shopping center in the middle of nowhere, fully stocked, and then hope that people will show up. Far better to experiment with a much smaller installation to test the market waters and then invest strategically when they start showing up magically.

My hope is that the MAS and the team and leadership behind it will take great strides in the coming months and years to make it an unbelievable experience for not only the customer but also the developer. It is truly a symbiotic relationship:

The relationship between consumers and developers is symbiotic, one cannot exist without the other. If the Mac App Store is a hostile environment for developers, we are going to end up in a situation where, either software will not be supported anymore or even worse, won’t be made at all. And the result is the same the other way around – if there are no consumers, businesses would go bankrupt and no software will be made. The Mac App Store can work in ways that’s beneficial to both developers and consumers alike, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

If the MAS is harmful to either developers or consumers, in the long term, it will be inevitably harmful to both.