Apple to Devs: No Half-Baked Goods in the Mac App Store
Apple has given developers a new beta version of Mac OS X 10.6.6 and spelled out some rules regarding its upcoming Mac App Store. Specifically, the store will not carry demo, beta or trial versions of apps. This could smooth out the user experience, but there's also concern it could become a painful limitation for developers who use pared-down versions of their wares for testing and promotion.
12/03/10 11:37 AM PT
Apple released the latest build of Mac OS X 10.6.6 Thursday and also announced new restrictions on application developers who want to sell their wares on the upcoming Mac App Store.
It has barred developers from offering demos, trial versions or betas of their products on the Mac App Store.
Apple has also issued instructions on file system usage requirements and the creation of custom controls for Mac apps.
Apple posted the instructions for app devs on its developer site.
All apps submitted for review for the Mac App Store must be the fully functional, and they may not be trials, demos or beta versions, Apple said.
Developers must write files in the appropriate location to provide a more consistent usage experience. For example, they shouldn't store databases in the user's "Documents" folder or files in the user's "Library" folder, Apple stated.
If an app requires an element or behavior that doesn't already exist, its developer can create custom controls provided the element or behavior supports Apple's interface design principles, Apple's guidelines said.
Spotlight on the Newest OS X Build
The new build of Mac OS X 10.6.6, Build 10J537, will reportedly be the golden master for members of Apple's developer program. The seed notes request developers to make sure they test the build's Bonjour, Dock, OpenGL, Printing and Spotlight features.
Bonjour, which is built into Apple's Mac OS X and iOS operating systems, is Apple's name for its implementation of Zeroconf, a service discovery protocol. It locates devices such as printers, other computers and services offered by those devices on a local area network.
The Dock feature provides one-click access to frequently used applications, files, folders and downloads from the Internet.
Spotlight is Mac OS X's search technology.
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
Apple lets app devs put betas, trials and demos of their apps on the iOS App Store, so why is it restricting them from doing so on the Mac App Store?
"There's a lot of competition in the mobile market, so Apple's willing to be more flexible with mobile apps," Laura DiDio, principal at ITIC, told MacNewsWorld.
"However, it's being more stringent for the desktop because if you have a beta or trial or even an alpha version of an app for the desktop out there, it might cause incompatibility problems or cause hardware or software to malfunction, or even introduce malware," she added.
It's all about the user experience, Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld.
"Apple knows that first impressions matter," Howe explained. "If it allows trials, betas and demos in the first release, people may get a bad first impression of the Mac OS X app store. That's why Apple's pushing quality before quantity," he added.
Or perhaps Apple sees desktops and laptops as more likely to be used at work and mobile devices to be more likely to be used for entertainment.
"Maybe Apple thinks the iOS platform is more for enthusiasts and gamers and utilities," Andrew Eisner, director of community and content at Retrevo, opined.
Putting the Hurt on Appdevs
The problem with restricting apps on the Mac OS X App Store to fully finished versions only is that app devs put out demos and trial versions to attract potential customers and use beta versions to get customer feedback in order to tweak their apps.
In the end, Apple's restrictions might end up costing developers money.
"If Apple's going to prevent developers from putting betas in the Mac OS X App Store, it must figure out a way to let them get these into users' hands," Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC, told MacNewsWorld.
The restrictions may be unnecessary, Hilwa said. "If you have a good app store with good labeling, I don't see why Apple needs to have those restrictions," he pointed out. "Perhaps they're concerned that people might not be able to differentiate between a real app and a demo."
App Devs Strike Back?
In fact, the restrictions " might discourage a certain segment of the population that feels Apple's being elitist and closed," ITIC's DiDio pointed out.
On the other hand, app devs could also get creative in dealing with the situation.
"The restrictions might force developers to prematurely label their programs complete," Retrevo's Eisner speculated. "If I were a developer and I needed the exposure, I might be tempted to make that leap and rename my beta version as final."
Apple did not respond to requests for comment by press time.