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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Developing for OS X. Thoughts?


I am evaluating platforms to develop for and one that jumps out at me is OS X. It seems (at least initially, and pls correct me if I'm wrong) that the market for software in this niche is less competitive and people are willing to support the small dev. I know that the market is a lot smaller than the Windows one,  but I have a few ideas that do seem viable.

Can anyone give me thoughts about developing for the Mac? Growth platform? Thriving business? Anything I'm not considering? Feel free to contact me off the board if you want to.

Much obliged. :)
Stew S Send private email
Monday, September 01, 2014
From my perspective, however narrow and biased, Windows + OS X may be a better combo.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
One aspect to be aware of is that OS X buyers tend to be highly critical of the cosmetic side of things.

On the positive side, you can sell pretty bland software to them, as long as it's beautiful. :o)

Reluctantlyregistered Send private email
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
It's sounds like you're selecting a development platform and trying to figure out a product and market to sell it to based on that selection.

Surely it should be the other way around ol' chap? Identify the market, the problem it has, the solution you can provide and only then determine the technology which could best provide that solution.

All the best -
Marcus from London Send private email
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
A possible danger with Mac OS X is that Apple may decide at some point to force everyone to buy their software from the Mac App store. It is very tough for indies to get their products noticed in the app store, you lose your relationship with the customer and Apple take 30%. Not good IMHO.

Also Apple periodically change the development stack and (unlike Microsoft) give very little thought to backward compatibility. So be prepared to do a major rewrite when this happens.

Another possible approach is to use a cross platform toolkit such as Qt to target Mac OS X plus other platforms. However there are inevitable compromises that come with cross platform solutions.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Consider how will you promote the software before writing your first line of code. It is far from "publish to the App Store and get revenues automatically". Think of App Store as a payment processor - you can get a spike of downloads, but they don' t promote your software consistently. Plus, there are tons of $1 software in the desktop App Store too. It's very difficult to make a living from one dollar app.

From my experience, there are a lot of good apps there on Mac already, so you have to promote the app as much as you do for PC app. Marketing is sometimes cheaper for cross-platform app since your audience is wider, but not always possible.
Ivan Nikitin Send private email
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
We sell our software on the Mac, too. And we use the Mac App Store as a distribution channel, so here are our experiences:

The good parts:

- Payment processing is pretty painless.

The bad parts:

- They take a 30% cut for what essentially is a payment processing service. That's horrendously expensive - regarding that they don't offer any other services to the developer.

- Apple keeps you and your customers separated - you never get an  email/name of your customer. 

- You can't release updates very often because the "review" process takes 3 - 4 days at least.

- There is no way to release a time limited trial version. You are also not allowed to mention your freely downloadable trial version in your app's store description text. Ergo: Even if you have a trial most app store customers won't download it.

- There is no way for update pricing.

- It is "illegal" to offer license-switching themes. (User sends in an App Store license and gets a full license for your over-the-web distributed app). A rather big app vendor tried that with their popular software to let people profit from upgrade pricing ... Apple got angry and threatened to ban their app from the app store.  http://www.omnigroup.com/blog/omnikeymaster-upgrade-pricing-for-mac-app-store-customers

- You have to obey some very questionable rules and regulations regarding what your software can do and can not.

- The enforcement of those rules is very inconsistent. Reviewer A may think your app is ok - reviewer B may reject it.

- Rejections can be fought but for that you have to put up with a "Soviet" style bureaucracy. And it takes looong time to get stuff sorted out.

- The Appstore itself is often buggy. Recently all newly updated/submitted apps had no alpha values in their icons displayed on the store. Made for very ugly icons. Apple needed around a week to fix that. (Except for more prominent apps like Shazzam where it was fixed immediatly).

- No way to get statistics about your app store page. You can't calculate a conversion rate because you don't know how many people open your app store page. It is rumoured that Apple will add some form of statistics to the App Store backend - but history has shown that the "cool" features for developers only get added to the iPhone app store. The Mac App Store backend is unchanged since its inception some 4 years ago.

- There is some very fishy things going on with "featured" apps. It seems that only US made software gets into the "Best new apps" & co feature lists and then most of the developers with featured software come from California. It's fishy because the objective value & quality of those featured apps sometimes is really _BAD_ and it's always the same apps that get featured. If you are an ex-Apple employee or are friends with the right people at Apple you are guaranteed to get featured. (Yes, "Best new apps" does not contain only new apps but also old popular apps that just had a minor update).


The app store is a highly expensive payment processor who limits you in areas that are essential to run a functional business. You get no customer data, you get no statistics - yet you have to pay a hefty 30% cut. You can't run meaningful only advert campaigns for app store software because you don't have the statistics to decide if what you do works. It essentially limits everything a modern MISV is about.

The app store should only be seen as a distribution channel. But in reality it is _THE_ distribution channel for Mac software. So by going Mac-only you are really making a pact with the devil. You might profit in the short run but the day will come where Apple changes $something in their system and your business will be in ruins. You won't have a customer base, you won't have a working distribution channel, you will be pretty much dead in the water.

Mac: Yes - but only as a secondary platform. Not your main one. (Which is sad because I really like their dev tools.)
Jeremy Morassi Send private email
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
@Jeremy: Thanks for taking the time to write such an extended and informative response.

How about developing for the JVM instead? (Business/professional apps, not consumer.)
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
I think some of the replies in this thread overemphasise specific issues.

I can't see Apple forcing all developers to use the app store in the next year or two. After that, it's not impossible, but unless the majority of OSX developers were on it then I would think they would not.

APIs do change. Often they go through a process of being marked deprecated and alternatives announced. There are announcements at WWDC, you hear about them even if you don't go.

If you do decide to release on Mac you should join the ADC. It's not expensive, you get access to all the docs, you get a code signing key, you get OSX developer previews, WWDC talks can be downloaded.

It would be really helpful for people responding to the OP, if the OP could give a bit more information about why they think OSX is a more suitable niche for their product.

I don't buy into the comment about smaller developers being appreciated more. I'm sure it's no different on Windows.
koan Send private email
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
I don't think it's accurate any longer to say that the Mac market is smaller and less competitive than Windows. Mac sales continue to grow and dominate the highest (most profitable) segment of the market. This has brought lots of developers into the field, increasing competition. While the Mac market is less of a race to the bottom than the iOS market, it is still more difficult to get noticed than it was a decade ago. In fact, I'd say there are much fewer differences between the Mac and Windows market than there were a decade ago--both are large, and simply releasing an app and waiting for the sales to roll in won't get you very far.
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Thursday, September 04, 2014
Jeremy, I just want to thank you for valuable feedback. Very nice review. I was also thinking about going to OS X. Now I will think twice before doing it.
Roman Vasin Send private email
Tuesday, September 09, 2014

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