Why the Mac App Store Needs Paid Upgrades
Wil Shipley of Delicious Monster feels the pain when he can’t sell a paid upgrade to his software through the Mac App Store, and he has sales graphs and logic to prove why Apple’s refusal to allow paid upgrades is bad for both developers and users. When will Apple realize this?
I've often wondered if that's why some developers of software I really like, such as the genealogy app Reunion, steer clear of the App Store. Of course, giving Apple a 30% cut seems a bit steep to me too.
Yes, just making the decision to sell in the Mac App Store opens developers up to all sorts of awkward problems.
Will wrote: "So, for instance, as a developer I could say to the Mac App Store, “When someone buys ‘Delicious Library ∞’ who has bought ‘Delicious Library 2,’ it should cost them them $15. Leave our version ‘2’ page up but don’t allow any new sales of it, and mark it as obsolete.” (In this way existing version “2” customers can still be updated (for free) with bug fixes even if they don’t upgrade to “∞.”)"
That's great except for one thing. If version ∞ requires a newer version of the OS than 2 did, then you're preventing some people from buying your software.
I've already faced that problem with iOS. My iPod touch is too old to run iOS 5 so there are a lot of apps I can't get until I buy a new device.
Now I understand there are costs to supporting older OSs, but in this case the developer already has a compatible version. Refusing to sell it doesn't seem like a sensible strategy.
I see no reason to stop selling old versions of apps in this situation. The App Store app is smart enough to know when apps are too new to run (you can't install iBooks Author in Snow Leopard, for instance), so it's not a great stretch to imagine a future version that would know that an app should be presented only to people with an old-enough version of the operating system.
This sort of thing is what computers are for!
Actually, the App Store is smart enough to know when you can't update software but is unable to sell you the oldest working version when the current version won't work.
I'm on the fence on this issue. Upgrades seem like a no-brainer, but it already leads to abuses in the non-App Store world — too many software companies charge upgrade fees in order to get known bugs fixed ("It has these great new features, and it also patches bugs that we're not going to patch in the earlier version"). In-app upgrade purchasing is too easy a way to cripple an app.
Apple would probably need to set standards on how long a product had to be supported before an upgrade fee could be charged. But since Apple has essentially done away with upgrades on their own products (and reduced prices accordingly), I think they will be pushing others to do the same.
I don't worry about abuses, because the simple fact is that if companies can't make money upgrading products they'll eventually abandon them. Companies that try to charge upgrade fees for too-small updates will either create a situation where customers refuse to update, or they'll find a pricing scenario that makes sense. Perhaps a small update is worth $0.99, for instance, if the company can make the case that you'll notice the change in a good way.
I am inclined to believe paid upgrades are likely to happen one day, for no other reason than Apple itself will want to charge for upgrades too.
I also find migrating non-App Store users to Mac App Store version is a great pain. There are thousands of our existing users wanting to migrate to Mac App Store version at a lesser price. While we get only 50 promo codes per version, we can't give it to every user. Moreover, migrating freely from non-App Store to App Store version will not benefit to Apple as well.
If we make our app free for a limited time, we would lose a huge chunk of our revenue. Similarly, slashing the price to negligible would raise the ranks but when the price is set back to normal it would lose both visibility and also opportunity cost.
But, it would have been great to have an option to set some system to migrate these existing users at a reasonable price covering 30% split of Apple.
What bothers me is that Apple has put a great deal of effort into making it difficult or impossible to game the system (such as by handing out promo codes), but without an equivalent level of thought about what developers might want to achieve by gaming the system.