As I reported here yesterday, Apple released an update to iTunes. The latest version, 12.7, has some minor changes, but one big revolution: the App Store is no longer available. I commented in this article about how this will be annoying for people with multiple iOS devices and limited bandwidth, because they’ll have to re-download the same apps on each device that wants to use the app. But a reader posted a comment to this article made me realize that there is a bigger problem. Developers will no longer be able to sell their apps on the desktop.
Let’s assume that you are developer and you have just finished work on a great new app for iPhone or iPad. You have a snazzy website, and you send out emails, post on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter, telling people about your app. Some of these people will hear the buzz on a mobile device. They will visit your website, see your Download on the App Store button, click it, and perhaps purchase the app.
But others will see your marketing on a Mac or Windows PC. They will get emails, or see something in a Twitter client. If they go to your website, and click on the Download on the App Store button, something strange will happen. They will not be able to go to the App Store, because it no longer exists.
In fact what happens after that click is interesting. The user’s web browser opens a web page which displays a message, above a spinning gear, that says Opening the iTunes Store. The browser eventually redirects to iTunes, which redirects back to the browser displaying a webpage showing information about the app. However, there is no way to purchase an app from this page. And there aren’t even any hints as to how one might go about this, such as suggesting that the user copy the URL and email it to him or herself to be able to access the information about this app on the iOS App Store.
I haven’t yet heard that any developers have reacted to this, but I have a feeling that they will very soon. They will realize that they are going to lose what could be a large share of their income. I have no idea what percentage of people by apps on the desktop as opposed to on iOS devices, but Apple has essentially cut out part of developers’ revenue stream by eliminating the App Store. This is especially critical for developers of apps that are available both for Mac and iOS; they’ll be selling their Mac apps from their websites or through the Mac App Store, but they need to tell users to manually search for their iOS apps on an iPhone or iPad, or send them emails with links.
There are a lot of questions about Apple’s confounding decision to get rid of the App Store. But this one is going to affect all the developers that Apple always claims to support.
(An aside: I’m wondering if this iTunes update release wasn’t a mistake. It feels like it wasn’t thought out. There are too many oddities like this that simply don’t make sense, such as features that won’t be live until next week when iOS 11 comes out. I’m now leaning toward the idea that Apple is going to roll the iOS App Store into the Mac App Store app, which would make some sense. Except for Windows users.)