$1 apps won’t dominate the Mac App Store

“Marco Arment wrote an interesting piece”:http://www.marco.org/1432156914 on the Mac App Store shortly after it was announced. I was nodding my head in agreement for much of it, until I got to this part:

“And if the Mac App Store is only populated by a subset of today’s Mac software, a few key points (such as ‘Inexpensive’) still won’t be true. This is why I believe that the Mac App Store will be dominated by (and become known for) apps that don’t exist on the Mac today.”

He makes great points, and I think his assumptions about Apple’s rules are correct. But newcomers dominating the store? And $1 apps as the second most popular price point on the Mac? I’m not convinced.

Many iPhone app hits lend themselves to a mobile environment, but the Mac is different because people usually buy computers to get work done. You don’t have your MacBook Pro with you while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. You don’t have it at a party when your friend tells you about the latest game. You don’t hand your computer to your kids when they’re bored in the car and want to play Angry Birds.

If $1 apps will be so common on the Mac App Store, why aren’t they common on the iPad? In the iPad top 10 right now there are only two 99-cent apps. Prices around $2.99 or $4.99 are much more common, and there are plenty of $10 apps as well in the top paid and especially top grossing lists. The iPad app making the most money right now is a $20 music app called “djay”.

I think $10-$20 will be pretty common on the Mac App Store, but not $1, and not even $2 or $3. Something that’s priced so cheap sends a clear message on the Mac: this app is useless and should have been free.

As I said recently on “Core Intuition”:http://www.coreint.org/, I absolutely wish all the best of luck to iOS developers and designers moving to the Mac. I had a great time hanging out with a mostly iOS group at 360iDev last month; these guys are ambitious and smart and bring innovation to the platform because they don’t have the baggage that the rest of us have. 2011 will be a fantastic year for new Mac software and for indie developers!

But take a good look at some of your favorite apps for iPhone and iPad and you’ll see that for the most part they lack the depth to compete with established Mac software. The workhorses on your Mac — text editors, image editors, file transfer apps, version control clients, web site tools — won’t be knocked off by new competition easily.

Maybe 10.7 Lion will be a revolution, but when the Mac App Store first launches on 10.6 it’s going to contain familiar software at familiar prices.