Today Apple announced OS X 10.7, aka “Lion”. One line reaction: I’m really glad I switched back to Windows when I did.
The most troubling aspect of the whole announcement was the unveiling of the OS X App store. Why would this be troubling, you ask? It’s just a way to buy apps, right? No big deal. Perhaps not, but here’s where I see this going:
1. Apple will make 30% of every sale of every app that is sold through the app store now, just as they do with the iOS app store. Wow. I mean seriously, considering this thing will almost certainly take off, Apple just increased their potential earnings by … er… a lot.
2. Developers who want to sell apps in the OS X app store will need to join the OS X developer program, which will cost them another $99 a year – even if they are already part of the iOS developer program. This is not speculation – you can go to the Apple developer site and pay right now to add the OS X developer program to your existing iOS developer program.
3. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that the OS X app store will be curated in very much the same way at the existing iOS app store. There may be slightly different guidelines but I’m betting that by and large it’s going to be essentially the same thing.
So far, so good. Despite the fact that Apple will make several billion more dollars on this whole scheme, there’s nothing blatantly evil about it on the surface.
However, we are then in a world where there are two kinds of apps – App Store Apps and Non-App Store Apps. Which do you think will be pushed harder by Apple? The App Store Apps of course! I don’t think Apple would be stupid enough to come out and say that all apps have to go through the App Store to be installed on Lion. But, they will be pushed. They will be promoted. There will be lists of the top selling apps, and app reviews, and staff picks, and what’s hot, etc. etc. As a developer, the pull will be to release your app in the app store, where more people can see and buy it.
I predict Non-App Store Apps will slowly, but surely become second class citizens.
The App Store is originally due to be released in 90 days. I’m assuming that’s before 10.7 is released. As such, it seems it will be largely an add on to the existing OS. But I predict the App Store will be integrated much more deeply into 10.7 itself. This brings up the question of tooling and APIs. Because there are now two types of apps, there needs to be ways of building two types of apps. App Store Apps will need to be built against certain libraries and have access to certain APIs, so that they can be downloaded and installed, do all the shut down serialization and full screen stuff, etc. Non-App Store Apps will not need access to that stuff, so will be built differently. Again, for 10.6, that’s one thing, but as 10.7 comes out, with new core OS features, one can guess that App Store Apps just might gain more access to more of these new features than Non-App Store Apps. This is just speculation, but I’ll put it out there and if I’m wrong you can come back next year and point and laugh at me.
If you follow this path long enough, the end view would be that Non-App Store Apps are marginalized, crowded out, and eventually just don’t exist. All apps for OS will have to be installed via the store. OK, that’s an obvious slippery slope argument. But I guarantee that if you could look inside the mind of Steve Jobs, you would see that scenario as his personal Holy Grail. Or think of it this way: the bigger the ratio of App Store Apps to Non-App Store Apps, the more successful the venture will be seen. Ultimate success = 100% App Store Apps, 0 Non.
As I said back in April when I switched over to a PC, I had become disillusioned with Apple and not happy with the general direction they were heading in, namely, the control-freak attitude over developers and consumers. I see this as the next step in that very same direction, and am very happy that I switched when I did.
There’s the boiling frog parable, which I find very applicable here:
If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.
- Daniel Quinn, The Story of B (more on that here)
You’re smart kids, you’ll figure out who the frog is and who is boiling it. Me, I felt the heat and jumped out of the water.
Anyway, just my thoughts. You can call me a hater, but I’m really not. In fact, I’ll most likely pay my $99 and write some App Store Apps. I actually like coding in Objective-C. OS X in general is a really great operating system. And Mac hardware beats pretty much anything else out there hands down. Apple does a LOT right. Which is why they are so successful. But I think the current trend in controlling app distribution is very bad.
Another question I have is about iAds. I was debating about this with someone on Twitter. I said something like be prepared for iAds in your desktop apps. Others doubted this would happen. But I assume that you will be able to distribute free apps as well as paid apps, and I assume there will be in app purchases just like iOS. So people will create free apps and likely put ads in them. Apple will either forbid this practice, or more likely, want to get in on the action, like they did on iOS. I don’t see why they wouldn’t allow iAds in apps. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing even. As a developer, it’s another opportunity to get remunerated for what I make.
So, yeah, lots of speculation and unsupported predictions here. I look forward to re-reading this in a year or so and seeing how it all turned out.