Regarding price, remember that Xcode has always been free in the past, so it’s odd to see that cost anything at all. Also remember that Apple are primarily a hardware company, so they can afford to reduce the price of all their programs to attract people to the MAS and the platform; those of us whose primary business is the software itself can’t do that.
It’s too early for the Mac App Store to have provided a massive increase in the Mac user base so far. We have a solid user base that has been built up over the past four years, and the Mac App Store is brand new. I might write something up on my blog in a few weeks, after we’re no longer featured and have dropped off all the lists and front pages, when I’ll have a better overview.
The Xcode 4 update was free for any registered Mac or iOS developers. Registration costs $100 yearly for the Mac and $100 yearly for iOS devices. With the $4.99 download, one could create and distribute Mac apps but one would have to register as a developer to submit them to the MAS.
Kevin is exactly right: the $4.99 fee in no way reflects the cost of developing and maintaining Xcode. Apple wanted to set a price high enough so people wouldn’t frivolously download the 4.6GB app but low enough so that any student or individual interested in trying coding on the Mac wouldn’t be intimidated. SDKs used to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars; this is an amazing shift in the dynamics of software. The diversity of wonderful high-quality iOS apps has become a strong asset for Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices; the same thing may well happen in a year or two on the Mac.
This is a massive download; Apple is getting dinged in the MAS reviews because of its size and the fact that every update contains the entire Xcode SDK.
I don’t know who this Kevin is, but obviously I (Keith) am aware of the pricing of the Apple Developer program being a registered member. It used to be a lot more expensive, so it’s nice they’ve brought the price down to $99. My point, however, was that Xcode used to be completely free (although you would have to be a paid member to get pre-release versions). Xcode used to be supplied on the discs that came with your Mac or with the OS X discs when you bought an OS update. And you could sign up for the free developer account and download Xcode for free too (I’m not sure if you still can - I’m assuming not seeing as it is now $5 on the MAS). But Xcode has been free for longer than I’ve been developing for the Mac - so at least the past seven or eight years - and it costing anything at all is new. And the enormous download size for each update is annoying, especially for those of us in countries with rubbish broadband speeds outside of the major cities.
Apple may have to figure out how to add some patch mechanism into the MAS downloads.
If an Apple Store is in proximity, they’re usually a pretty good place to get the bandwidth. I’ve thought for a while that the Kinkos shops (now FedEx Office) have really missed the boat: they could figure out some way for companies to “overnight” large file transfers for a reasonable charge; the customer could pick up the file on a USB memory stick the next day. That would clearly add some complication to the MAS details to work that way.
One side note: I get into trouble with your .sig file, Keith. I always read “Not Kevin” in your postings, smile, and the wrong name gets stuck in my head. Maybe I’ll try to remember “Keith not Kevin”, OK?
Ha, I can’t win. I put that in my sig because everyone kept getting my name wrong, and now it’s causing people to get my name wrong. (And even worse, I actually have a brother called Kevin - my parents were evil.)
Your FedEx download idea is a good one (although yes, it wouldn’t work with the MAS anyway) - although it might be a problem if the shop is in the same poor broadband area as the customer, of course. And I bet the majority of people downloading huge files aren’t doing so legally.
It would be nice if Apple figured out a way to allow incremental updates via the App Store rather than having to download Xcode again every time, although that’s always been a problem with Xcode. It’s generally not too much of a problem because it doesn’t get updated every week or anything - it’s more of a problem when you’re getting the pre-release stuff. It seems a little unfair to give it one-star reviews based on this, though.
This story notes that future Airport Extreme boxes with storage could store software updates that would be available for anyone on that network. The article notes that the device could store both iOS and MAS updates.
Apple could clearly benefit from placing pertinent updates out to the edge. Customers that come to Apple stores for their updates would get them faster and with less overhead. The same tech would work well for businesses, schools, and even internet cafes with Apple users.
I believe that support incremental updates was announced in the WWDC keynote.
I would argue that there are already a plethora of high-quality Mac OS X apps out there. The MAS just gives a central location to find a large number of them. When I was wandering the wilderness of Windows, “shareware” left me with a very bad impression of downloadable software. But when I look for software for the Mac, I consistently find good quality programs with minimal googling, and that has been the case for the better part of the decade I have been a Mac user.
I am currently totally pissed off with the MAS. OK, my account is in the UK store, and I’m here in the Land of the Great Firewall, but …
In Jan, I bought Pixelmator when they had a release offer and it downloaded and installed on my MBA. I’ve since completely redone the SSD on the MBA and re-installed everything else. I’m on my fifth try to install Pixelmator. It takes hours to download … and then the download crashes before it’s complete. Makes me wonder if I should even dream about trying to install Lion!
Apple is certainly banking on good internet connectivity for the MAS to work. Keith noted similar problems with the massive Xcode install in a separate discussion.
I regularly read macrumors.com; there has recently been discussion that Airport Extreme and Time Capsule boxes could function as a MAS download oasis in networking-starved areas. A box with 3TB of storage could hold Lion, Pixelmator, Scrivener, and at least 500 of the most popular apps. Only a low-bandwidth channel to the store would be needed for validation.
I’m sure downloads will be very easy in Apple stores, and I’m sure they’ll use caching on these WiFi-with-storage hubs. The interesting question is how Apple will work with third-party operations in locales that don’t have Apple stores. China will be a major headache; I hadn’t realized that Apple still only had 4 stores in China.
Apple recently announced their MusicMatch music-laundering service. When are we going to get an AppMatch service where those who bought software before the MAS can get their software updates through the MAS? Until they get this transition ironed out, I can’t be completely enthusiastic about the MAS.
Good luck with your download/update problems, Mr. X.
Thanks Phil. I think I’ll wait till I get to the UK in a month’s time. I have a 1MBit ADSL connection … for downloads from developers I can get up to 450Mbit/Sec download speeds … from the MAS, it’s more like 40 if I’m lucky, and then it grinds to a halt for minutes on end. My final try with Pixelmator, it downloaded 256 KB of data and then went to sleep … not the MBA, the connection. I’ve let it run all night, with the energy saver set to never for computer sleep, only to find that as the finishing post came into sight it had thrown an error and exited the download.
I’m thinking of replacing my MBP 17" which is showing it’s age and has other problems, courtesy of falling off a chair – the MBA, not me – but I want to wait till Lion is out. I could buy it in London, leaving the MBA here, but then getting Lion onto the MBA will be a pain … or a nightmare. If I take the MBA home, I can get LIon on it while I’m there, but that will mean not replacing the MBP, I guess, at least not until I’m back in Jan/Feb next year!
Such decisions! If only the MAS were workable here. A friend has just bought an iPad 2 … she finds downloading apps from the Chinese iPad App Store incredibly slow, too.
I registered for a free developer account a couple of weeks ago and was able to download a free copy of Xcode – but it’s version 3.2.6. To get 4, I’d have to register for the $99 developer account, or, now I know, thanks to you all, pay $5 at the App Store. (And then wait a superlong time for it all to download again – so I think I’ll struggle along with 3.2.6 for a while.)
I am one of the ones who was fine on the Keith/Kevin front until the sig – but it’s okay, the sig makes me paranoid so I’ll be looking up your name every single time before using it.
Today, Apple announced availability of Lion and a several updated computers. They also announced that Lion will be available on a USB thumb drive in August (see this MacRumors article. Lion as a download is $29 in the US; Lion on thumb drive will sell for $69.
That should help you, Keith, and others who live in bandwidth-challenged lands.
This article on macrumors.com explains why they had those silly $5 charges for the xcode environment: they were not for profits; they were to be in compliance with accounting rules. There now is no charge the xcode download for Lion. I believe the charges will also be removed when iOS 5 comes out in the fall. The latest financial call details the change: a small amount of the revenue for sales will be deferred for ~2 years; this allows them to be in compliance.
I bet this is all about Sarbanes-Oxley, which happened as a reaction to the Enron scandal. SOX helped the accountants, but the rest of us are paying tons of money for that onerous legislation.
On the pricing issue, I started developing Mac software in 1986, on System 4.2 (it wasn’t even called Mac OS then) and a Mac Plus, with no hard disk. Back then, we used Lightspeed Pascal, as the original Mac toolbox was written in Pascal. There were, as I recall, seven volumes of Inside Macintosh that you needed to buy to find out what all the system calls were, and they were quite expensive. You started writing the program from the main event loop, and worked your way out. Later, they became dependent on Metrowerks for a compiler. Thank goodness, when Steve came back and OS X was released (I got mine within two weeks of the public beta release) he knew enough to give developers the tools and docs for free, and not rely on third parties for such crucial things.
I have a love-hate relationship with XCode, but Cocoa is lightyears ahead of where we were 25 years ago, so I’m not complaining.