The Mac App Store is Taking a Lot of Flak

There has been lots of justified criticism of the Mac App Store lately. There was notably a problem that prevented users from launching purchased apps, that turned out to have been caused by someone at Apple forgetting to renew a certificate.

My friend and podcast co-host Rob Griffiths recently penned an article for Macworld, explaining that with convenience comes compromise. Rob pointed out that, while the Mac App Store has some advantages for users, the downsides often outweigh the plusses. There are no demo versions, no refunds (well, technically, you can ask for one, but if you ask too often, you’ll get flagged), no discounts on upgrades for loyal customers, and there’s sandboxing.

Every app in the store–excluding some long-existing apps that pre-dated the rule changes–must be sandboxed. Apple pitches the sandbox as increased security for users, which is definitely true.

But for some apps, the sandbox means they may not be allowed to implement some features (because the sandbox doesn’t allow everything).

Dan Counsell, of Realmac Software, has been collating a list of apps that are not available through the Mac App Store. Naturally, there are thousands of such apps, but Dan has been focusing on the better known apps that many users have heard of. He’s got 63 at the time of this writing, and the list will certainly grow.

Like many such services, Apple is pretty much ignoring the Mac App Store. Developers, who first saw it as a way to get their software in front of millions of users, have found that they wait a long time for their apps to get reviewed, and have no contact with users, who often leave negative reviews for features that don’t work, where, in many cases, an email to the developer would sort things out. Such as last week, when apps weren’t launching because Apple forgot to renew their certificate; lots of apps got one-star reviews, blaming the apps for Apple’s negligence. While the Mac App Store saves developers time – they can sell to any country where Apple is available, and don’t have to worry about payments, or local taxes – it’s becoming clear that the cons are starting to outweigh the pros.

I’ve bought a number of apps on the Mac App Store, but, in most cases, if a developer sells their app directly, through their own website, I buy it that way. It means I have to keep track of a serial number, but that’s not a big deal. If Apple doesn’t fix the Mac App Store, it’s going to lose a lot of the developers whose apps make the OS X platform so powerful. And that would be bad for everyone.