The Mac App Store Launches: Observations and Implications
It’s only been roughly 24 hours since the Mac App Store launched, but already trends are emerging. What are developers’ strategies? What’s selling and what’s not? More importantly, are there channel implications? The answers may surprise you. Read on for the details …
First, there’s a dichotomy that has quickly emerged. There are two kinds of apps on the app store: iOS ports, and Mac apps that have already existed pre-Mac App Store. Inside that dichotomy, unsurprisingly, is a price differential. Many iOS ports (like Angry Birds, for $4.99) are floating around iOS prices, anywhere from free to $9.99. The store seems primarily dominated by these apps, with $4.99 to $9.99 a price that many devs seem comfortable asking for, considering the platform.
But then there are “traditional” (more expensive) Mac apps. A personal favorite of mine is Transmit, which has sold for $34 on the developer’s website for quite some time now. But surprisingly, instead of opting to bump the price up to adjust for Apple’s cut of the pie, Transmit sits happily in the App store for $33.99. This means a few things, but mainly that app developers think the exposure in the Mac App Store will outweigh the money lost through Apple’s cut. Also worth considering is the idea that app developers weren’t getting exposure anyway, so they’ve got nothing to lose. But even that doesn’t round out all the possible developer sentiments, since Transmit is still also available direct from the developer’s website.
I’m curious to see in the future how many developers’ web pages will simply say, “find us in the Mac App Store” or say, “buy here, or in the Mac App Store.” It’s really just too soon to tell. Worth noting, however, is The Unofficial Apple Weblog’s research that shows the $20 to $50 price point actually dominate the market, with $10 to $20 apps a very close second. Free apps are not the majority. These figures suggest that devs have faith they can make some real money.
Shifting gears away from the dollar signs, I find myself pleasantly surprised about the apps I’m discovering. What’s more, I’m finding apps available on the Mac App Store that were once geeky gems I had to stumble upon myself. Alfred is one such example. Simply put, Alfred is an advanced task launcher, akin to Apple’s own Spotlight, but much more feature-rich. I played with Alfred when it was still in beta roughly a year ago. I thought it was good software, but I didn’t know whether it would ever see the light of day. Now it’s all over the store, sitting in at #11 in the top free apps.
Another application, Caffeine, was a surprising addition as well. It keeps your MacBook (and the display) from going to sleep when you need it to. I found it interesting that Apple let the software in the store, considering it makes a minor adjustment to your system settings (albeit temporarily.) Again, this was geeky little tool that wasn’t that well-known. Now it’s #5 in the top free apps.
But what about the channel? Where does the App Store fit in for the rest of us? ISVs should really take note here. Realistically, it’s a portal and a channel in and of itself, and the better question to ask is, What verticals can you reach with it?
Education and healthcare markets are the first two that come to mind, since they’ve taken off on the iOS platform. Right now, the Mac App Store doesn’t have a huge library of these apps, but the potential is there. Expensive apps like Kompendium ($54.99) offer comprehensive prescription drug information, while Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing makes a resurgence for $39.99.
But there is one pretty big snag: you need to have an Apple ID (the one you use for iTunes) to start downloading apps. That could be a roadblock for VARs who thought they could use the Mac App Store to make it easy deploying software with new Macs.
But what do you think?