Why I Don’t Like the Mac App Store

While older friends and relatives often eschew technological advances (“Who needs a web browser when I’ve got the AOL?”), I’ve always been an early adopter. As I’ve aged, I’ve often wondered what the first big advance would be that *I* would reject.

I found it. It’s the Mac App Store.

I’m a pretty big fan of all things Mac, but the Mac App Store really puts me off. At first, that was because the Aperture software Clyde paid $200 for this Christmas appeared in the Mac App Store for just $79.00. Ouch! But now, my distaste has expanded beyond the hit we took on that purchase. Frankly? The way the Mac App Store does business flies in the face of a lot of the things I like about Mac apps.

1. I like 30-day software trials. One of the best things about Mac software, especially the titles from the independent developers, is the 30-day trial period. Download a title. Work with it for a month. If it becomes indispensable, you buy it. If not, you don’t. This try-before-you buy approach has sold me many an app (and prevented me from buying many a bad one.) There’s no upside for the consumer in the Mac App Store’s “Buy It or Don’t” approach.

2. I like interacting with developers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve contacted the developer of an independent Mac software title, requested a feature, and seen that feature quickly integrated into an upgrade. (Once, it happened within 24 hours.) With the advent of the Mac App Store, Apple inserts itself between creators and customers, and the upgrade process slows down because each iteration must run the Mac App Store approval process gauntlet.

3. I thought installing new software was already easy. I get that the Mac App Store makes installation possible with just one click of the mouse. But come on! Was there anything really that taxing about downloading a disk image and dragging and dropping an application’s icon on the Applications folder?

4. I feel abandoned by some of the people I’ve supported. I felt really good about buying great independent software like Pixelmator, which has long been my go-to choice for quick graphics editing. But now that Pixelmator is available exclusively through the Mac App Store, they won’t be upgrading the software I’ve already invested in … and if I want access to upgrades, I have to buy the software I’ve already purchased again. I think that sucks, and I’m not sure that developers buying into that arrangement deserve a consumer’s support.

Will the store be a success? Almost certainly. But it’ll have to make its millions without me, as I don’t think I’m interested in buying what they’re selling.

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.


  • Your webhost ate my comment earlier, so I'll repost my take on a couple of your objections:

    You can still get 30 days trials if vendors do as they've done in the iOS App stores: Give away a "lite" version or give away a trial version from the vendor's website.

    Easy software installation wasn't what Apple was shooting for. It's consistency across platforms. Factor in the Magic Trackpad and features hinted at in OS X 10.7 and the Mac is moving into iPad territory. I would argue that they did make software installation easier too but now people who were less likely to go Mac now have more of a reason.

    Pixelmator is a bad example. On their blog, they explain that if you re-buy in the App store now for $29 (which is $30 off the previous purchase price) you get the upgrade to 2.0 later this year at no additional cost. Basically, you just bought an upgrade. Plus the App store license allows you to use your purchases on any Mac you own. No more family pack purchases.

    This is a good thing for everyone. Yes, Apple is silly in not allowing software purchased outside the store to be grandfathered in. An obvious way to do it where you put the burden of proof on the vendor and not Apple could've been done but wasn't. At any rate, this is good for the Mac ecosystem. This will only accelerate Mac user share.

  • Hey, Brian. Always good to hear from ya.

    It's true — the lite versions of an app do allow customers a limited exploration of a software title's capability. That's nice — but not anywhere near as nice as having thirty days with a full-featured version, in my personal opinion.

    I'm all for consistency across platforms, and agree the Mac is headed toward iPad territory in certain ways.

    As you note, if I'm willing to purchase Pixelmator again (at a discounted price), I'll receive 2.0 free — which is a bit like purchasing an upgrade. But what features will 2.0 have? Will they justify an upgrade? Are they features I need? I don't know — and, frankly, I feel a bit hustled being told, "Pay $29.00 for a program you've already purchased, and we'll reward you by giving you a free copy of the next version, which might or might not be something you want or need."

  • Excellent post, Mark. I couldn't have said it better myself!

    I just don't know where Apple's going these days. I don't think they care about their computers any more, and it looks like they no longer care about "Apple interface" guidelines either. Maybe I'm getting older, too, but I just don't want to think that in a few years I'll be doing my day-to-day work on "a big iPhone", which is I think where Apple is going.

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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