March 14, 2012
When the Mac App Store first hit, I was all for it. Things just seemed easier since anything I bought there could be installed on up to 5 Macs, and would be easier to manage and update.
Things didn’t turn out quite that way…
While the Mac App Store is great for finding, buying, and downloading software, it has major issues when it comes time to keep that software updated. Since developers can’t just post their updates to the store, those critical patches can be seriously delayed, and that’s never a good thing.
For example, I use an app called HyperDock. It’s a great app and very handy for figuring out the various windows an app has open. The problem is that there has been an updated version of HyperDock out for a few weeks now, but delays in submission and clearance in the Mac App Store mean I have yet to get the new version. I can’t just download the update from the vendor, because the Mac App Store licensing is not compatible with the retail licensing that the vendor uses everywhere else. That’s not the vendor’s fault, they literally cannot use the same licensing method for the version sold through the Mac App Store.
This is incredibly common, from what I’ve seen myself and heard about over the last half-year. Some apps get updates immediately, others wait weeks or longer to get the approval and post the update in the store. If the update is just visual or fixes minor bugs, that’s understandable, but some of these updates are major and cannot wait.
Then there’s upgrades. Most software developers have policies in place where all minor upgrades (i.e. 2.1 to 2.3, .4 and .5) are free. Major upgrades (i.e. 3.x to 4.x) are not free, but are offered to existing customers at a very discounted price. The Mac App Store doesn’t have any way to handle that, and therefore you’d have to buy the whole software package over again if the vendor doesn’t want to supply free upgrades for the next major version.
Finally, there’s free trials. With the Mac App Store, you either buy a piece of software, or it’s free. There is no middle ground, and no way for a developer to issue a time-limited key for a free demo. Some developers have created free versions of their apps with greatly limited feature sets, but that’s not the same as “try our product for 30 days with all functions available.” For apps that cost more than the $1.99 level, a free trial makes spending the cash on the full package a lot more justifiable.
There are a lot of alternatives to the Mac App Store, including MacUpdate which I talk about in this blog quite a lot. These systems work directly with developers to allow you to download free software an buy purchasable software directly from their sites, while still having a central place to go to check on fixes, updates and upgrades. It’s where I will be getting most of my software from once again, after dealing with the nightmare that is the Mac App Store.