January 05, 2011, 4:51 PM — Some long-time Mac developers have reservations about Apple's Mac App Store, the online market set to launch Thursday.
Their beefs range from the technical to the philosophical, their worries running from support nightmares to a narrowing of consumer choice.
"Mac users may see a narrowing of what software is offered," said Jon Gotow, president of Blacksburg, Va.-based St. Clair Software . "I understand the rationale for Apple's rules -- to be successful, the App Store had to be as easy and bulletproof as the iOS store -- but the restrictions are going to cut out system utilities, and a lot of other things that are popular."
St. Clair's products are in that system utilities category. Default Folder X adds additional features to a Mac's Open and Save dialogs, while App Tamer automatically pauses applications when they're not in use, reducing CPU use and, on laptops, extending battery life.
The restrictions Gotow mentioned are numerous. Apple's Mac App Store guidelines list 92 prohibitions, including bans on software requiring the user's admin password, on programs that are not "self-contained, single application installation bundles," and on products that use an internal update mechanism rather than the App's Store own service.
Those limitations, said Gotow, will force developers to make a tough choice: Forgo the App Store and the audience drawn to its simplicity, or continue to sell direct, a strategy that Apple's new e-mart may make tougher as time goes by.
"Developers will self-censor the apps they develop," Gotow said. "For someone who's established, it's different, but if I was starting now, I wouldn't do Default Folder. If you're a new developer just getting started, you won't be creating something that isn't allowed in the App Store."
Gotow also worries that prices for Mac software will plummet.
"What's going to happen to prices?" he asked, acknowledging that he doesn't know. "[But] traditional developers don't want to sell something for $2."
He sees a split among developers. One group will base its business on high volume. "Do what they let us do, and just plow this stuff up," he said. The other will resent the 30% cut that Apple takes off the top for inclusion in the App Store.
"Apple's not giving us any user information, which is critical, and not letting us charge for upgrades, which will tend to encourage throw-away software," Gotow said.