The Mac App Store – Doomed to Failure

Mac app store doomed

Earlier this year, I wrote about the pros and cons of buying your Mac apps from the Mac App Store. Since then, I’ve come to a firm decision – when possible I will buy my Mac apps directly from the developer, instead of from the Mac App Store. I can thank Apple and the far-reaching effects of its sandboxing policies for leading me to this decision.

Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, has expressed his belief that the Mac App Store will become irrelevant. He’s given a few reasons to support his position, but for me, it boils down to just one of them: confidence.

Apple’s new sandboxing rules might be great for security, but they limit what a developer can do with an app. For that reason and others, my confidence in the App Store is gone. I lack confidence in the following:

  1. I no longer have confidence that any app that I buy there won’t be a crippled version of what is available directly from the developer. The App Store version of OmniFocus, for example, can’t run certain scripts that the non-App Store version can run. The previous App Store version of popular mail app Postbox was missing several features (the developers don’t even sell the new version of Postbox in the App Store). Instead of hunting around to find out if the App Store version is fully functional, I’ll just buy it from the developer;
  2. I have no confidence that if I purchase an app with great functionality, that it will keep that functionality going forward, due to App Store rules;
  3. I have no confidence that apps purchased in the App Store will continue to be there. We’ve all heard the stories of apps pulled from the iOS app store. Will the Mac App Store follow suit? Make sure you have reliable backups of your apps, just to be safe;
  4. I have no confidence that I’ll get the benefit of upgrade pricing when a developer releases a new paid version of an app, since the App Store can’t handle paid upgrades for new versions of an app.

Given the choice, where would you purchase your Mac apps? Will anyone but tech geeks think of these issues? Marco Arment thinks that this isn’t just an issue for geeks. I agree with him. If enough customers get burned by the App Store, they’ll stop using it. And if enough developers get burnt or fed up with it, the App Store will become the home of trivial apps.

What do you think? Will you buy your apps from the Mac App Store?

Evan Kline

Hello, I'm Evan. I write about tech from my perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. You can also find me on Twitter and at my real-life job as a lawyer.    MORE ABOUT ME.


  1. I’ve bought a few apps through the Mac App Store, but in general, I think you’re right. I haven’t thought about the problem with paid upgrades though, so it’s good that you mentioned it.

  2. Good stuff. I am glad some of the more popular writers are tackling this issue of Apple is not as great as they say they…just because they say they are.
    iCloud is lacking, Apple IDs are an utter mess, and now the Mac App Store is so restrictive it must be hard to breathe in there.
    If I want to find simple game I know where to look but if I want to find a powerful application that takes full advantage of the system that I paid top dollar for I will buy directly from the developer. Besides, without paid upgrades I have no confidence that my super awesome app from the MAS won’t fizzle out and die because the developer won’t be motivated to offer upgrades and enhancements.
    Apple make some great things but they also blunder too. For us to accept everything as great is a mistake.
    Keep up the good work and spread ALL of the news good and bad.

  3. As a general user, the Mac app store appeals directly to me.

    1.)It is difficult to find good software in one place(solved byMAS)
    2.) updates for all apps in a single place -compared to opening each app to update or having extra update software(adobe, Microsoft, etc)
    3.) I (we) trust apple. If they approve an app, we trust the app. I hate doing a bunch of research on a developer/software to see if they are legit.
    4.) customer service!
    5.) credit card assurance. ( apple has our credit card, not a bunch of random developers) <– goes along with trust above
    6,)organized and independent product reviews
    7.)1st and sometimes only place I look for software

    I agree with the whole "limited function" agreement, and wish apple let some good apps in. But the store good/bad will survive and prosper

  4. Great topic,
    After reading your concerns I’ll be buying the more important/powerful software from the developer.

  5. I was a Sparrow user until Google purchased them so I deleted the software from my iMac. I looked at PostBox previously but found it expensive. I went back to PostBox site and noticed the huge price drop to $9.95. Whats that all about?

  6. Idiot Grammarian

    I don’t think “burnt” is actually a word. It’s “burned”. And if it is a word, it would apply to only physical burning – not analogous to “ripped-off”.

    • Thanks for the heads up. Of course I had to go look it up . . . according to a grammar site, “burned” is the favored usage in the U.S., while “burnt” and “burned” are interchangeable outside North America. I’m in the U.S., so burned would have been the better choice. I’m running off to change the post now.

  7. Gosh, great comments. IMHO the entire computer business is lost and trying to find it’s way forward. The entire Apple “ecosystem” notion makes my head hurt. I would like a new email address to replace my current icloud email address and Apple I.D. Apple and Microsoft both believe a touch screen device and desktop GUI is the same thing. Apple is quickly returning to it’s old 80’s style draconian customer relations habits that almost sunk the company. And is quickly making their hardware maintenance and repair extremely unfriendly. I expect soon they will begin will potting the internals of their hardware in epoxy making them expensive throwaway devices. By the way I am writing from a DR PowerMac G5. Thanks

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