Over the weekend: 360 MacDev looks forward
It was not enormous, nor was it filled with flashing lights, giant monitors or masses of people. Instead, 360 MacDev's current incarnation was a smallish gathering of like-minded individuals of all ages (more on that later) interested in getting together, talking shop and discussing theory. While most people these days will equate Mac developers to Apple's ubiquitous line of iOS-powered mobile devices, there is about to potentially be a new market for desktop programs with the launch of Apple Mac App Store.
There was some excitement in the air about the store's imminent launch, but like all things Apple does, nobody really knows exactly what they're supposed to expect or even desire from it until it's in their hands. Desktop software has always been a bit of a mystery for casual computer users to find, install and use, with most homemade or small-team apps relying heavily on blog-coverage and word-of-mouth advertising to get their product into people's hands. Developers have a lot of confidence in Apple and with the ridiculous success of the App Store, they're hoping lightning will strike twice when the same thing gets rendered on the Mac.
The bulk of the conference dealt with talks far above my head; coding tricks, UI design, sound engineering and other things I've always just left to the masters. My comprehension-level of the talks I attended was the equivalent of a cat's understanding of the uncertainty principle. Still, there was plenty of chatter in the air about the potential for the Mac App Store.
"We're not officially doing anything right now," said David Wiskus, Chief Creative Officer at Denver-based iOS App developer Double Encore, "but the potential is big enough that we want to be prepared." Wiskus went on say that clients were beginning to ask questions about "Mac Apps" for the first time, regardless of the fact desktop applications have been around since the first personal computer landed in someone's home. If Apple's good for one thing, it's creating buzz for something that has already existed for a long time.
The Mac App Store is promising a lot. It's promising a consistent, usable store interface for developers to utilize and sell their goods. It's also providing a simple interface for people to purchase things in one place, the "Wal-Mart of app stores," as Wiskus describes. It also promises the same core update functionality as the iOS app store, which means people might actually keep their applications up-to-date.
Developers have to play by Apple's rules, which means a yearly buy-in of $99 and the acceptance that Apple will be skimming a hefty 30% off the top of each sale. That's not much when we talk about iPhone apps, which rarely top the $10 mark, but considering most desktop applications retail for a higher price, it might be less interesting once the razzle-dazzle wears off. Which is where Jay Freeman, the man behind Cydia, the jailbroken iPhone store, comes in.