Apple’s line of Mac computers is doing better than ever. The Mac App Store? Not so much.
Last week, Bohemian Coding, the maker of Sketch, a popular professional application used to design Web sites and mobile apps, announced it was pulling the program from the Mac App Store. Although it was reluctant to take the step, it cited a litany of complaints, including limitations on pricing and upgrades and delays in getting new updates into the store. Bohemian had been considering the move for some time and didn’t make it in response to a recent bug involving security certificates that prevented some Mac users from being able to open apps acquired from the Mac App Store.
“After much thought, and with a heavy heart, we’re moving Sketch away from the Mac App Store,” Bohemian said in a blog post. “This move is not a knee-jerk reaction to the recent certificate expiration problems that affected so many Mac App Store customers. However, in light of what happened, we can’t help but feel vindicated in our decision that the Mac App Store is not in our customers’ best interests right now.”
Sketch is just the latest among a growing number of high-profile apps now absent from the Mac App Store. The developers of popular text editors Coda and BBEdit decided not to offer their latest updates through the store last year. Among the other popular apps that you can’t get through the store are Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Mozilla Firefox and Plex.
Developers‘ complaints about the store are numerous. Bohemian Coding complained that after submitting an update to Sketch to the App Store, Apple would often take at least a week and post it. Another developer, Michael Tsai, complained that he’s had an update stuck in Apple’s review process for 59 days.
Developers are also unhappy about the limitations that Apple has put on apps that are offered through the Mac App Store. The iPhone maker requires that such apps are “sandboxed” meaning that they are basically isolated from other programs and the operating system itself. Sandboxing can be an important security measure, helping to constrain the damage that can be done by malicious programs. But it also can limit the usefulness of beneficial apps and hamstring developers.
Another source of developer unhappiness revolves around the economics of selling there. Apple hasn’t provided a method within the app store to allow developers to charge for full upgrades of their applications without forcing them to offer the updates as completely new apps. Apple also doesn’t allow developers to bundle their apps and sell them together for one price. And the company takes a 30 percent cut of all sales — a charge developers can avoid by just selling their apps to consumers directly through their own Web sites.
And that’s not to mention last month’s security certificate problem. Apple replaced an expiring security certificate for the Mac App Store, with a newer, stronger one. But the new security technology wasn’t supported by some apps in the store. And many Macs needed to be rebooted to recognize the new certificate, but Apple didn’t prompt them to do so. The result was that some users found themselves unable to open particular apps.
Those aren’t the only signs of troubles. In May, on the day it was released, Redacted, an app that helps users obscure text or images inside documents and photos, skyrocketed to the no. 8 position among all apps in the U.S. Mac App Store and the no. 1 position among graphics programs in the Mac App Store. The total number of copies developer Sam Soffes had sold through the store that day? Just 94, of which 59 were to U.S. customers. His total sales — before Apple’s cut — was just $452.
The fact that some developers are abandoning the Mac App Store points to one of its key weaknesses. On iOS devices — iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch players — the only way to get apps is through the iOS App Store, unless users jailbreak their phones, a step that few take because of its complexity and security risks. But the Mac App Store has only been available to consumers for four years. Consumers were able to get software on their Macs long before the App Store existed via Internet downloads and program discs. And Apple has left open those avenues even after launching the App Store.
Photo: Screen shot of the Mac App Store.