Music software development includes some of the most sophisticated, expressive software out there. But it has long faced serious challenges in sales – audio software still appeals, generally, to a small slice of people, made smaller by factors ranging from piracy to the sheer complexity of available audio tools. As computing’s distribution model for software shifts, audio developers are undoubtedly watching.

Love it or hate it, what’s unique about Apple’s App Store for iOS is that it’s a one-stop shop for everything. With App Store fever spreading – new stores for mobile and desktop are either available or planned from the likes of Apple, Intel, Microsoft, and Linux vendor Canonical – we’re likely to see a new kind of store model. On desktops, Android devices, and others, multiple stores will compete with one another in overlapping arenas. They’ll do it without lock-in, too – unlike on Apple’s stores for iOS, you’ll have a choice of where to get your software.

Last week, of course, that list expanded to include Apple’s Mac App Store, coming to Snow Leopard and then the just-announced Lion.

Music creation and pro audio apps may be a specific niche, but creators of everything from plug-ins to audio software are at least interested. Little wonder: desktop music making software has always faced an uphill climb, but recently, iPhone creations have become breakout hits.

Just don’t get too excited yet. An early look at Apple’s guidelines for the store suggest restrictions will rule out a great deal of current Mac software, particularly audio software that relies on plug-in models. I’ve asked some independent developers to comment on what the store means to them, and take a look at some of those restrictions.

Several developers responded to my questions. Now, a disclaimer: clearly, the Mac App Store is not aimed at creators of strange synthesizers and effects. Nor is it possible to represent the full gamut of developers making software for musicians. TUAW has a nice round-up of more typical Mac developers, who are, unsurprisingly, more upbeat. I likewise expect that anyone who now has some success on the iOS platform – vendors like IK Multimedia or Smule — will be optimistic about the Mac App Store.

So, instead, consider this as a sampling of developers for whom the App Store may not actually change that much. I was, frankly, surprised to see plug-in creators and pro audio users assuming that the Mac App Store would be a natural marketplace for the software they care about. Early evidence is that it isn’t. But with app stores spreading across devices, the responses from developers provide some insight into longer-range challenges that transcend even Apple’s latest offering.

Gallery: sample applications and stores.

Could the Apple App Store be a viable option for creative music developers?

Angus Hewlett, FXpansion:

I’d say it’s a viable option for entry-level and somewhat novelty apps, and as a launch-assistance platform for brand new developers (allowing unknowns with no established reputation to get started in the world of ecommerce). It’s not of great appeal to FXpansion – we’ve been around long enough that I’d hope commercial trust isn’t a massive barrier to people buying from our web-store – but as a get-yourself-started platform, it is not completely without merit.

Of course, because these app stores are usually tied to a specific platform, for those developers who are on more than one platform, it does just add additional complexity, cost, and hassle. Admittedly it improves convenience for end users a certain amount (a good thing in my book), but the effort/overhead of getting out your credit card and typing in the number looks completely different for a $0.99 game you’re going to play for 20 minutes, compared to a $249 plug-in that you’ll spend hours/days just learning and (we hope) use several times a week for years to come.

Christopher Randall, Audio Damage:

The guidelines preclude selling plug-ins, so that rules out the segment of the industry I’m most familiar with. This will probably change, but my general feeling is that people that make things like Numerology will be well served, but for the majority of our business, our needs are a bit too particular to really benefit from something as broadly-focused as the App Store. And there’s no real financial incentive on Apple’s part to cater specifically to us, because we’re such a small segment of the overall software market.

David Viens, Plogue Art et Technologie:

As much as we like having our code base tested on as much compilers and platforms possible for correctness and efficiency, constant platform changes are quite boring, and usually dont spark any innovative ideas from us. Innovation not only is what drives us in the morning, but it’s also what users want, hopefully more than the typical will-it-run-on-my-toaster? kind. Also innovation is highly regarded by various tax break programs in many countries Also app stores make it impossible for us to do quick fixes, we could be committing code to Nintendo ROM carts that it couldn’t be different. So there is a need to raise QA and testing budget by a very significant amount, before release….

For standalone software, the kinds of things we’ve seen for iOS seem a likely candidate – particularly general-consumption audio “toys” (in the sense of stuff anyone can open up and use to make sound)?

Chris Randall:

That was my my general thinking. I was pondering it at length last night, and the smaller single-use app seems more likely to benefit from it, assuming it is a parallel environment to the existing App Store, with the same sort of customers. The chief difference between this App Store and the iOS one is that this isn’t the only option for purchasing software for your Mac. It has to compete with other channels, which is an important distinction, especially if most of its offerings are simple “casual” apps.

What about the app store landscape in general, as other players get into the business of doing their own stores? How does Apple fit in?

Gavin Burke, Future Audio Workshop:

The main issue is that the app store model just one piece of a bigger jigsaw and is tied in closely to the hardware, software frameworks and what this means to an independent developer and his/her ability to compete on a level playing field with established brands.

App store success is just one part in a bigger picture. The other players need to get the various parts right and not just create an app store and think it will work.

A major part is the price and ease of purchase. It’s easier to buy the software for $1.00 with one-click purchase than look on for a crack. So price, ease of purchase, and last but not least, [making it] difficult to get the cracked version. Looking at it, it may only work if there is a single distribution channel and not multiple ones ( including rapidshare as a channel 😉 )

One flaw, though, in the Apple App Store is the charts. At the moment it is based on sales volume. Allowing people to view by highest user rating, etc., might help level things. Also, Apple can act as king maker with their ability to dish out the free advert slots on the device.

Angus Hewlett:

It’s a new channel that will no doubt get a lot of coverage – a few developers with the right products and first mover advantage will make some fast bucks for sure. After that, I don’t know. I suspect phones (and consoles – myself, I spend way more on XBox Live Arcade than on the iPhone or Android stores) are a better and more natural platform for cheap, one-shot novelty apps than desktops/laptops, simply because of how & where they fit in to peoples’ lives, but I’m ready to be proven wrong on that.

Are you concerned about Apple’s 30% cut of revenue?

Chris Randall:

Not at all. The app store runs on volume; that is its main attraction from a commerce standpoint. The trick is to take advantage of that potential volume, and the way to do that is through lowest-common-denomenator (e.g. “I Am T-Pain”) products.

Angus Hewlett:

Yes. It’s a lot more than the original generation of “app stores” (shareware ecommerce middleman sites like ShareIt, DigitalRiver, Kagi, NorthStar etc.) typically charged. We used to sell through ShareIt back in the day, they took about 10%, but once your turnover hits $10-15k a month,
it’s more economical to have a proper merchant account based shopping cart system (the hassle that entails costs a few hundred dollars a month in terms of overheads, paperwork, other bank-related BS, but it brings the average cost per transaction down to 3-5%). Also, at 10-15k a month turnover, your brand is probably well enough known that potential customers are likely to trust you somewhat as an online vendor.

Having said that – the terms-and-conditions aspect of being in an app store, especially when the operator is particular, capricious, anally retentive or all three at once (naming no names), is far more toxic than the 30% cut. Losing a predictable amount of money per sale is one thing, but failing to sell a single copy of your app – after you’ve spent months and $thousands developing it – because the store owner rejected it for reasons outside of your control is quite another.

David Viens:

30% is ridiculous. What enrages me is that users seem to think it’s normal and much less than ‘retail’ .. wuht whut??? We have never done retail ever and been using Share-It (which costs us less than 10%) for 6 years. That’s the price of a payment processor.

Sure, it doesn’t give you ‘visibility’ but what is that visibility on the 15th page of music software selection in a store? Can’t we just be as creative with our viral marketing, social network tricks as we are with the software itself?

Bandwidth price on Amazon S3 is microscopic (10 cents a GB), so not an issue, even with 100-megabyte demo downloads.

Share-it don’t care about the content, they never put their noses in our practices, suggest guidelines, or anything.

People are just getting to enjoy their new-found freedom with independent online music and fair-trade and local grown foods, however. they will let the inverse happen to software?
Will we see the movement to Fair-Trade software in 15 years?

Do you think it’s a model that could work, from a business perspective?

Angus Hewlett:

It’s a new channel, a few developers with the right products and first mover advantage will make some fast bucks. After that, I don’t know.

How well versed are you on acoustic physics in relation to loudspeakers, impedance etc.? There are some interesting parallels here with app stores – basically they are a good platform for allowing very small developers to cast a very wide net. Those of us who have a more specialist, focused audience can probably build trust with our audience via more efficient, focused channel….

It appears that plug-ins are ruled out by several of the guidelines issued by Apple. Care to comment?

Gavin Burke:

I can’t see the app store concept working for plug-ins; it’s pretty much already there with the downloads page on the Apple site.

If the app store is the only channel to purchase applications for a device that cracked software is not easily available for, then yes, it works. Otherwise, not so sure. We already have app stores for music software, like Don’t Crac[k], etc., with somewhat limited success. Also for complex niche software, it’s hard to beat the personal connections distributors have with stores and in turn with their customers. We find this especially true for Japan.

Artistic freedom and censorship

Artist and developer Kassen Oud offered some compelling thoughts on Apple’s developer “guidelines” and rules via Facebook. To him, the restrictions on what goes in the store conflict with making software art. I think it’s a reasonable and challenging point to make – just as Apple has the right to conduct their store in the way you wish, developers and artists presumably have just as much right to opt out.

To me, the big appeal to developing software for music is the chance to do something unique and individual. External limitations (like arbitrary moral guidelines or limits on the language to be used) conflict with that, to me. As the process used is important to me I need to be able to express myself about that publicly as well. This rules out Apple’s app store. With regard to code/ application distribution those are more important factors to me than the need to create applications for Apple’s app store on a Apple computer though that in and of itself would also be a prohibitive factor to me.

I don’t mean to imply that software on Apple’s platform would inherently be less “unique” or “individual”; I certainly do not wish to take anything away from my friends whose creative process wasn’t (apparently) affected by these factors and who did create very interesting works released on it, taking nothing away from their FOSS work.

Apple Developer Guidelines – Plug-ins Need Not Apply

Apple’s draft review guidelines for the Mac App Store have been widely posted, including full text. Here are the excerpts most relevant to the above discussion.

Plug-ins will almost certainly be rejected.

Apps must be self-contained, single application installation bundles, and cannot install code or resources in shared locations

(Plug-ins, by definition, install to shared Library locations, as per Apple’s own guidelines.)

Interestingly, though, hosts appear to be okay, just not the plug-ins themselves:

Apps that unlock or enable additional features or functionality with mechanisms other than the App Store will be rejected, except in cases where the application hosts plug-ins or extensions

Demos aren’t allowed.

Apps that are “beta”, “demo”, “trial”, or “test” versions will be rejected

Other guidelines are worth watching.

Various other guidelines provide fairly restrictive policies that developers will have to balance against their business interests. These aren’t unprecedented – see the strict review policies of venues like the Steam store for games. But those stores have seen their own share of developer complaints, and they’re specific to an audience (like gamers); here, it may be tougher for niche developers to justify. (That’s, at least, the feedback I’ve been hearing from music developers. For mainstream developers, the equation can be different.)

Apps that install kexts will be rejected

Apps that require license keys or implement their own copy protection will be rejected

Apps that present a license screen at launch will be rejected

Apps may not use update mechanisms outside of the App Store

Apps that duplicate apps already in the App Store may be rejected, particularly if there are many of them

Of course, some of the challenges of audio software are … unique. How many pro audio applications would meet the following guidelines?

Apps that do not use system provided items, such as buttons and icons, correctly and as described in the Apple Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines will be rejected

Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good it may be rejected

Comments from other developers are welcome. We’ll keep you posted.

  • RichardL

    Applications that use deprecated APIs will not be allowed on the store. So that means no applications that use QuickDraw, no QuickTime (pre-X version) and no Java.

    Carbon is endangered, but not yet deprecated. But the writing is on the wall. Once Carbon is out, is that's a huge segment of applications.

  • Peter

    Excellent post and interesting input from the developers.

    The Mac App Store will be huge for music. Developers that can avoid horseless carriage thinking will see the opportunity this creates.

    It will be an interesting year for music software.

  • Well, and that raises a question — yes, of course, the App Store is being targeted at a mainstream audience, people who might not have purchased apps, period, in the past.

    But if the model *does* turn out to be advantageous, doesn't that then produce a problem when apps that are the bread and butter of the platform aren't available there? Plenty of "casual" users by many measures nonetheless will use Adobe Creative Suite, for instance, or Office, and it appears those kinds of apps won't be welcome. That could produce confusion or user frustration that bounces back to developers and Apple alike.

    Similar problems may also soon be arising on Linux, Windows, and other mobile platforms.

    At least in audio, I expect users will continue to expect things to be done the old-fashioned way.

  • @James: I think Angus hit it on the head – "a few developers with the right products and first mover advantage will make some fast bucks for sure," but it's uncertain how that will compare to game and mobile platforms. (One thing I think Angus misses, at least, is the voracious appetite of the Mac community for apps, which has partly driven iOS' unique success.)

    The plug-in model has lots of problems of its own, but don't miss some of the other points – there are many obstacles that lie between developers and "hugeness."

    And now I'll shut up and let other people comment…

  • prevolt

    It's one more aspect of computer use/creation Apple's working to close down and own with their now-outmoded and increasingly destructive "aesthetic." And everyone who can is following along.

    It's terrific news to parents who wish their damn computer was as simple as their ol' T-V, but that line of thinking is regressive. 10, even 5, years ago Apple had a fresh voice as an underdog in a staid market that was anachronistic in its own way, but when you see Apple's goals carried through to completion and becoming the dominant rules of the game they prove to be another kind of dead end.

    A huge, tired corporation can't make all these decisions for us. They need to lay off closing channels and writing restrictions and instead support, react, and adapt to the amazing things that the actual users are coming up with every day.

    It's really great news that the current App Store doesn't work for pro audio software. I don't mind if it stays that way. I might buy a "T-Pain"-type app every once in a while but I want to buy my tools from the concerned and knowledgeable people who actually made them, on their terms.

  • cubestar

    I think some devs could use make stand alone apps from certain plug ins to get some money and brand-name recognition from the app store. A good example is AD's Axon, which would be fun as a full-screen standalone app.

    As the iOS App store's restrictions have relaxed, I think you might also see the Mac App Store relax some restrictions as they work with developers.

    Overall, I think the App store could be a huge deal for Macs. Indie Mac developers have been making excellent software for so long, without a good market place. I usually have to dig around to find some well-hidden gems. This could be the biggest deal of anything announced last week.

  • RichardL

    Personally, I'm looking forward to being able to buy software that used to cost hundreds of dollars for $0.99.

  • Czarred

    I would much rather pay more for a plug-in than jump on Apple's volume sales bandwagon. What quality and support is a developer willing to provide everyone who purchases their app for $.99?

    I hope more audio software starts being created and distributed like OhmForce's Ohm Studio. Having access to your software from any place in the world and the software is always updated because the only program(s) is(are) on the developer's server. Plus you won't have to buy into one particular hardware brand or OS to use the software. That is a much better model for software developers than thinning out their work just to make it Apple store compatible.

  • Are worried at all about this App Store becoming the sole source for software for Macs? That is, software purchased outside Apple's store not working on some (not-so) future Apple OS?

    More cynically, if something like this is implemented, and Apple decided that Cubase or Live is too similar to Logic, they won't sell Cubase and Logic, therefore making it impossible to get said software. It's one thing to have one single place to get software for my phone or tablet. Is there some reason it's clear this won't happen with my Macbook Pro?

  • @Brian: Apple's own Pro software makes extensive use of deprecated APIs. Now, cynically, yes, they could make a special set of rules that applies only to that software. But let's be realistic: Apple is fully aware that their pro Mac customers have a set of expectations that are different than a typical consumer. In fact, to their credit, at least they've acknowledged that gap rather than saying everyone's the same (cough, Microsoft). It looks to me from the way these guidelines are written that part of the reason you won't see the App Store as the only distribution mechanism is because, not in spite of, the fact that a lot of pro software doesn't fit this set of criteria. I could be wrong, but I don't see any evidence that Apple views this model as something that fits everyone.

  • Looking at this from the developer's position is interesting. If you want to understand the motivation, look at it from Apple's perspective.

    1) Apple wants to control user experience. Sometimes deprecating old APIs takes a while and if they control distribution through the app store, this provides another kind of pressure.

    2) Apple sells hardware. So, Apple likes cheap software. The iOS app store brought the bar down on software prices and Apple would like to apply this to MacOS software.

    I think the app store is less about where we're at now, and more about where we're headed. Mobile computing. More emphasis on the cloud. Cheap, simple and cheerful.

  • The rule that gives me pause:

    Apps that require license keys or implement their own copy protection will be rejected"

    I haven't heard about what type of copy protection Apple will be offering for products sold through their App Store. However, unless they offer some completely new and robust copy protection scheme, the above rule doesn't provide much reassurance.

    As a fairly new and small developer, if the App Store had been announced a few months ago, and if it would support plugins, I would have been all over it. But there was no App Store announced then, so I had to figure out my own copy protection, sales model, distribution, etc. What I came up with is fairly simple, but it works fine, and I definitely make more than 70% of the sales on each plugin sold. Since Apple won't have a monopoly with their Mac App Store, they will have to compete with PayPal and other payment processors/e-commerce providers that offer higher profit margins and less restrictions.

  • kev

    Apple's app store looks to be designed as a way to get iOS apps running on the Mac OS easily. There are a number of developers who are new to Apple that have jumped in because of the iPhone and this will allow them to get on the desktop very easily.

    As far as existing Mac developers. The App store will work well for small, self-contained apps, and shareware. Mac OS X has always had high quality shareware on the whole and this will conglomerate those titles under one trusted umbrella for payment and distribution.

    Audio apps like Capo:

    will also likely benefit as these apps are more general purpose and their uses are more self-explanitory. Contrast that with trying to sell something like Bidule through an app store and you would see many angry customers who purchased it while misunderstanding the purpose of the app.

    Apple designs these App stores to be a one-way transaction… you may buy cheaply but no demo period and no returns. This policy streamlines the support that is needed and cuts down on customer service noise. It's not a terrible way to go about things either.

  • Human Plague

    Finally, some sane opinions on an otherwise questionble developement in the world of OSX. Thank you Peter and those interviewed.

    Note to Steve: Less PEPSI CEO, more NEXTSTEP.

  • HEXnibble

    @Czarred: <blockquote cite="What quality and support is a developer willing to provide everyone who purchases their app for $.99?">

    Have a look at NanoStudio on iOS. While it's not $.99 (no one said apps have to be that cheap), it's been a huge success because the product itself is quality. The support is the best I've seen for any audio software developer anywhere. Just take a look at the BlipInteractive forums.

  • Adrian Anders

    As a consumer I personally hate Share-it (and the stupid restrictions on "free" email addresses), so more competition even by Apple in terms of middle-men is always a good thing.

    Maybe this will prompt more adept "niche" developers to jump into the store game. I always thought that the Native Instruments Service Center would be a good store app if they included 3rd-party apps in the installer/copy-protection interface. I think if they spent the time on that NI Service Center could be the Steam of music software.

  • MrBook

    I wonder how convenient, or if it would be worth it to publish a "free" or "lite" version of your software on the Mac App Store, but have the full version distributed and sold through an independent channel, thus avoiding Apple getting the 30% cut.

  • Hmurchison

    The Mac App store is just another avenue for application procurement and installation. Steve Jobs said himself that it won't be the only way to buy apps but it will be the best. For many types of apps that will likely be the truth

    Developers if it doesn't work for you continue to keep doing what you're doing now. No one is stopping you.

  • @Hmurchison: That's correct — and it's also the point. It's yet another app store. Steam now runs on the Mac. Other app stores for computers are likely to follow.

    Or to put it another way, you have multiple stores, "which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid. This is going to be a mess for both users and developers . . ."

    Who said that?

    Steve Jobs – talking about competing app stores on Android. Ummm… last week. 😉

    Like it or not, multiple, overlapping app stores are the future, and because of the way they're set up, no one store will solve all developers' or users' problems. What remains to be seen is whether that's a problem, or whether the variety simply means those users and devs gravitate to wahtever suits them.

  • synthetic

    30% seems fair. Credit card companies take 10% right off the top.

    But I agree that the no demo/no copy protection is a big problem for our industry.

  • ernesto

    I already have a store for my main app, it's called for the secondary apps there is always

    they ain't ¨fun¨ to play with. they are great for serious music work

    thanks but no thanks steve


  • Greg

    Sounds like wal-mart.

    Lots of cheap crap that does the job poorly pushing out excellent products that do the job right.

    But hey, you can get it all in one place.

  • casey

    I have an iPad and iPhone which I love for music, but i use and prefer Windows desktops.

    I'm really not happy about the mac app store. This is just one more notch that is going to pull small dev's away from creating cross-platform applications, all while forking over %30 for sweet chic nothings.

    This is a market grab and a control grab by Apple. It advantages us musicians in no way.

  • bar|none

    @prevolt, Love your post. Couldn't agree more.

    I don't mind that apple gives developers these sales channels for their apps. I don't mind that they make things simple and elegant for the end user.

    What I do mind is the cultivation of Steve's private walled garden and the active and destructive killing of any technology he deems an invasive weed.

    Apple broke down the mobile carriers walled garden, but only to construct another one. It may seem pretty and idyllic now, but when your choice is gone and your apps are all a cheap commodity that can't seek a different platform because there are no cross-platform technologies anymore, it will make a nice prison.

  • Ah, I seem to be the "odd one out", with a "software art" perspective. This is fine, but it does seem to me that that side needs a bit more attention (in general, not here in particular). One of the things that interests me is that Apple's store, aside from presenting tools and instruments, is also becoming a model for distribution of toys and experiments that have no clear practical use beyond wonder and amusement. Clearly there is a demand and a audience for that yet the rules seem aimed at commercial products. I could imagine some other platform, say Android, jumping to fill that gap. A separate section could be opened for that, for example with extra disclaimers where needed; more or less like a "gallery" next to the "store". Except of course we'd need a better word as "gallery" sounds dreadfully serious.

  • RichardL

    > 30% seems fair. Credit card companies take 10% right off the top.

    Baloney! Credit card processing costs from 2% to 3.5% for Internet-sourced sales transactions.

  • So, if you sell a product on the Mac App Store, does the product need to be exclusive to the store? Or is it closer to standard retail outlets, where a music store will sell software that can also be downloaded from the developer directly?

  • @Kassen: If you described what the "gap" looked like — what a dream alternative would look like to you — could you do so with some specifics? Just curious.

  • This seems to me to be a great way to be able to perhaps port work back and forth from apps on iPhone to your computer – thinking Jasuto in particular here – work initially with a nice big screen and port it over to your iPhone to play with… And I do mean play, and I feel that's nothing to snub one's nose at!
    Beatmaker, noise i.o, sunvox, and pretty much any of the more complex apps (read: not just a synth) would/could all benefit from a 'mothership' program on one's Mac… The multitouch, accelerometer, and gyroscope controls onthe iPhone make it the more playable item, but can be frustrating to set these things up on.

    I use a couple iPod touch's in my live and studio work, and love the many things they can accomplish due to their small size (not only for portability, but also that I can control one in each hand), mappable parameter controls (in apps that support it), and variety of available functions – the lack of multitasking can also be a bonus, as it helps me focus, I find.

    Looking forward to it!

  • Greg

    This is a step toward no full-featured DAW working on Mac besides Logic.

    Mark my words.

  • I don't see a problem with multiple stores. You don't buy all your clothes in the same store, do you?

    And different stores have different focus, but probably also some overlap. If you want a construction worker helmet you're not going to look in H&M, but a store that sells those helmets will most likely also sell some shirts or sweaters.

    Choice is a good thing, that also means chose of stores. There is no one size fits all solution for this, just like there is no universally perfect daw.

    The app store will be a big hit, but I don't think it will change much for most pro level audio software. Their needs are too specific.
    Mind you, some self contained music apps will do very fine. Think ejay style things, but maybe also reason.

  • Low Resolution Sunse

    It seems like this is a move by Apple to capitalize on a market of entry-level computer users; either first time owners or 'converts.'

    I don't think that this is the beginning of the End Times as far as sophisticated users like ourselves, go, however, because Apple depends on us creatives to perpetuate their brand mythology in the long term.
    In this regard, I think Kyran is right; it won't affect the more sophisticated DAWs, and by extension, probably won't shake things up too badly for us.

    I think MrBook's idea that the app store could be used as bait, is really interesting, too.

    My only great hope is that the App Store finally lets me get my hands on a version of Solitaire that is as good as the one that comes with Windows.

  • aaron

    I do not see App Stores ever having anything to do with the professional and power-computing beyond the types of tools that are already seen on the current mobile platforms.

  • mat

    I feel that simple apps are almost like a "gateway drug" to later buying real software down the line, at least for those that get really into it. Someone may buy digital music software for their mobile device, someone whom has never considered digital music, and end up buying a DAW from the same developer. You could maybe even compare it to digital DJ-ing, where I think developers get interested in making DJ software, with a goal that at least some of their users will decide they want to make their own tracks (that's what happened to me..).

  • Thank you for this article, it was so well written that I stopped writing my own one any simply provided a link to here from Hitsquad news!

  • Alex

    Rules 2.7 and 6.4 will make competition impossible for audio programs…at the end we might see 10-20 standalone synths which are very different but they don't have other competitors because of the similarities/simple interface challenges etc…

    I believe that Apple will wake up and make some adjustments to the rules for high end music software…for example, they can't demand a simple interface (which everyone can use) inside an audio program like Reaktor or other programs with complex synthesis (many parameters) and DSP software!

  • As the owner of a store the specializes in selling Apple solutions for creative types, especially musicians, I am watching this very closely. My clients like being able to come into my store and try out software, listen to plug-ins, get my advice, and make informed purchases of the software that they use daily in the profession. If all software sales start going direct or online through the Apple App Store, it would undermine my whole business model. Therefore, I am thankful that most of the apps I sell are not likely to be found on the store with the current restrictions and, for everyone's benefit, I hope it stays that way.

    Purchasing everything online might seem good for the consumer in the beginning, but ultimately, it would hurt everyone. Businesses like mine would close and pros and semi-pros would have no where to go to check out the latest software and get local support. The software vendors would lose us as evangelist for the products out in the field.

    Better to let guys like myself get the 30% margin as I add value to the consumer, rather than give it to Apple who adds no real value other than a one stop online shop.

    FWIW, all my above comments apply to the pro and semi-pro apps. For total entry level and toy like software, I think the Mac online app store is a great idea, exposing consumers to software they might never find otherwise.

  • torie

    as a musician, or developer, engineer, damage fixer, audio genius, programmer – what ever you are, what would you like to see happen with these music software programs and applications? what kind of things would you like to do with a music program that you can carry with you anywhere?

    how can we improve and get more people interested in making music? or, as a professional, does it serve a purpose?

  • cubestar

    – iOS apps have demos now(Called "Lite"). Maybe they are just talking about time-limited demo apps.
    – Isn't there a 24-hour return policy on the App store?

  • Glass

    30% seems too much when compared to other middleman models, but compared to the older model of "phone company selling software" it's a lot. A friend used to get paid like 10 cents for each game sold, and it would cost 2 or 3 bucks to the customer…

    But still, I think that 30% is really way too much for pro-audio companies selling plugins. They can get better with mouth-to-mouth and blogs like CDN…

    By the way:

    "Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces."

    Most plugins today would pass this one it with praise. We're on the golden age of interfaces! I laugh at my non-musician geek friends because my software looks and feels and works so much better than theirs! But yeah, mostly are very complex… 🙂

  • The Great Curve

    I'm always confused by the outrage over these developments. If you find the limitations inherent in products like the Mac App store frustrating, simply don't use them.

    Yes, Apple's made a mint creating consumer electronics for the masses, and that's exactly how most people use their computers. They read the web, they check email, and they play a couple of games. If you're using a base level comp, having access to all the little pieces of software you might actually use in one place will be extremely convenient. Yeah, Apple wants to "control" the user experience for this casual stuff stuff, but in all honesty I've had far more luck finding useful tools via iTunes for my phone than I did back in the day trolling TuCows for my PC.

    Even more "Pro" users could benefit from Apps that might flourish in this environment; it would have been nice to have a central, VALID source to find software to convert LAME into something I could load into iTunes.

    That said, for those that aren't casual computer users, you'll still be able to find and install everything you want from other sources. If that goes away, then outrage makes sense. Until then I'm not sure I understand the freakout factor.

  • The Great Curve

    Sorry, I meant converting FLAC to Apple Lossless in the above example.

  • I and some others have asked on the CoreAudio list about the appropriate venue to lobby for AudioUnit sales support on the upcoming MacOS X App Store, and we were told to file a feature request on (which unfortunately requires an Apple developer membership of some kind).

  • Varian Allen

    I'm glad people are calling attention to these issues with the Mac App Store. However, the idea that Apple is going to alienate or exclude an entire segment of its user and developer base is a bit silly. As with the iOS App Store, Apple made adjustments to its rules to accomadate developers when they were made aware of issues that they hadn't contemplated. I expect those kind of adjustments to happen with the Mac App Store before Lion even ships.

    As a developer who is working on a product for Mac, the idea of not having to deal with payment gateways and serial numbers makes me very happy. The less I have to worry about, the better. Regarding the 70/30 split, I imagine this is nothing for developers who sell boxed software through retail channels. The App Store must seem like a dream.

  • Varian Allen

    Yes, I misspelled accommodate. I'm very tired.

  • Angus_FX

    Doug – you're quite the rarity these days. If more retailers took pride in knowing about the product and offering good customer service, music tech retail in general would be in a much healthier state. The box-shifters (who now want 50% margins out of us manufacturers) drove most of your kind out of business long before the direct model and platform-specific aggregators became a threat.

    One other thing that didn't occur to me til now.. because the App Store will aggregate all apps, unify copy protection / DRM under one system and ban all 3rd party DRM, breaking it is going to be a HUGE prize for the hackers/cracker community. Meaning it'll very likely get jailbroken in a matter of weeks, and then all apps will be essentially unprotected. Not such a problem for 99c apps on phones, big problem for expensive pro-audio software and plug-ins.

  • Ed

    Like many people here I'm certainly against anything that reduces the opportunity for creativity and innovation, but… it will be some time before the kind of software we're all talking about is simple enough to use for people that would *only* shop through an app store. So for now I think we're fine.

  • This article/post is awesome. I love the insight from all the different developers. CDM rules 🙂

  • jhhl

    I see the Mac App store as a place for the desktop equivalents of iOS apps to be sold. It's a convenience for a mom-n-pop developer to get some kind of product onto a desktop quickly and painlessly. Dealing with the restrictions of the store will result in both extremely simple, super cheap apps roughly in the same class as Dashboard Gadgets to have an easy and safe place to be sold. The Mac App store will carry the same reputation for safety that the iOS App store does. Assuaging that fear is a a big hit against sales resistance for impulse items!
    Certain more sophisticated apps should be able to navigate through the restrictions, but I expect most of them to be sitting outside of this ecosystem, or will have to wait until the Mac App Store tent grows enough to accept them.
    I think it's being set up mostly so at some point, the iOS simulator will be an official part of the operating system (kind of like Rosetta), and iOS apps which can adapt themselves to the diverse feature sets of various desktop systems, maybe aided by some cards with gps, gyroscope (or cell phone for that matter) hardware on them, will be able to be sold and run on desktops.

  • The most interesting oft-repeated article of faith among the developers and many commentators in this article is the idea that Apple's Mac App Store will result in the same kind of software paradigm that the iPhone / iPod app platform represents:

    The software will consist of "entry-level and somewhat novelty apps" (Hewlett) of "lowest-common-denomenator (sic)" (Randall) driven by low prices and high volume.

    Regardless of if you agree with this characterization of the iOS app store, I find it hard to believe that the two markets are the same. In other words, I don't believe that the type of software that achieves success on a small handheld device like an iPhone should tell us very much about what type of software will succeed on a Mac.

    To me, the type of software that runs on modern Macs, computers with full keyboards, fast hardware, big screens, and more precise pointing devices, is nothing like the kind of applications that users want for their iPhones. In fact, the most iPhone "app-like" part of OSX, "widgets," have been largely ignored by both the public and developers alike. This is despite widgets having advantages over traditional OSX programs such as a dedicated hard button on computers and special OSX integration. I think this shows that as much as the public may crave "iPhone style apps" on their mobile device, they don't want the same kind of experience on their computer.

    I don't think anyone truly knows what kind of programs will thrive in the new Apple Mac App Store but I suspect the competitive landscape will be quite different than the iOS App Store.

  • Roger

    These are all great questions. For me as a consumer and also working for a music reseller I can understand why Apple is treading more carefully here at first launch. Not that they would hesitate to compete with us but I believe this plan is two fold.
    One I think stepping on developer and Dealers toes so soon is a mistake. While it may be inevitable it gives us time to respond and time for Apple to figure out what will work in an air tight iOS kind of way on Mac OS.

    As a consumer I have had what I would describe as a transformative online buying experience with Apple. All iTunes downloads,rentals,iOS apps etc..have been simple,instant,reliable,affordable and most of all the one click experience to me feels safe!
    I love independent developers and cottage software companies but i do not trust their eCommerce practice more than Apple, Not even close!

    This does not mean they are not trustworthy but do they have what it takes to keep the transaction safe and how do I as an average consumer know that? To me the iOS app store has proven that one click and apples seamless experience has relaxed the cautious consumer and transformed Apples software landscape.

    While I admit no Plug ins is rough, it is also possible Apple's restrictions may simply be preliminary until they can sew up OSX to mimic the security of iOS in terms of installation and system resources.
    i would not be surprised to see future developer tools and initiatives from Apple to "make your app app store ready"

    Ultimately i will still consider other avenues online but a seamless experience such as iTunes App Store or Valve Steam gets most of my dollars simply as it is such a seamless trusting experience

  • i could see workarounds to plug-in functionality, in app purchases could be used to add instruments/fx to host apps. a standard could be decided upon, like developers have done with some audio copying and midi formats. a developer could share profits with the developers of these in app purchased instruments/fx. free plugins would be hard, unless free in app purchases are possible. 

  • iTunes is a pain in the proverbial – the lack of ability to organize you library made me turn around at the gate…

    bring on the choices, about time I say!