Is there a future for Mac software?

4 April 2010

Warning: This post may have a slight taste of jealousy when you bite into it at first but I tried my best to only use a teaspoon.

iPhone was, as Scott Forstall recently put it, a gold rush for developers. Simple, relatively inexpensive applications for iPhone that hit the top paid, popular or featured lists on the App Store have made some serious dough for their developers. This caused a lot of developers to focus on iPhone either exclusively or in addition to their offerings for either the Mac or PC. They've spent a considerable amount of time focused on iPhone app development.

iPad is creating a similar environment. iPhone applications are being ported over to iPad and new applications are being developed and released as quickly as possible - and exclusively for iPad. A lot of time and effort is going into building these applications and I'm sure it will mean a lot of money in the pockets of developers.

You can't blame the developers for going where the money is but I fear for the future of Mac software and I'm even beginning to fear for iPhone's. I fear that one day all of the great work, the great applications, the incredible design will have migrated exclusively to iPad. That may not happen for some time and people are still making some serious money on making both Mac and iPhone applications - but the tide is definitely on its way out to the iPad sea.

I sometimes sit and wonder what sort of applications could have been made for the Macintosh if, say, Apple had opened up an App Store that supported iPhone, iPad, and Mac? Would the river of money have been split into three smaller tributaries? Would people flock to the Mac the same way they have iPhone and now iPad? Arguably the main reasons people buy iPhones and iPads is the ease of finding/installing software and content. Imagine if things were that easy on the Mac. And imagine if developers were excited to build applications for the Mac again!

Apple isn't out of position yet to make this happen. With a single move, adding Mac software to the App Store, they could start a gold rush for Macintosh developers the way they have for iPhone and iPad developers. Unlike iPhone and iPad, though, it should be just another way to download applications - not the only way to do so. This way both developers and consumers could decide how to get applications themselves and not be forced one way or the other. I think, ultimately, developers would decide to distribute their applications through the App Store because that is how users would choose to get their applications but at least they'd have the choice. Wouldn't that be great?

But this may never happen and that is why I fear for the future of Mac software.