I bought my first Apple products — the original (512k!) Macintosh and an ImageWriter printer — in the spring of 1985, and in the decades since have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on things made by you. Do you know why I have been so loyal all these years? Two reasons. One, the quality of your hardware. Two, the quality of the software made by independent developers who create for your platform.
Your own software — operating system and apps alike — has been woefully inconsistent. Every OS release, on all your platforms, brings new features but also new bugs. Especially on the Mac I have perpetual problems with wi-fi, Bluetooth, window management, and support for external monitors. iOS is comparatively more stable but after ten years it’s still impossible even to select text reliably. Your apps are mediocre to poor, with only a few exceptions: GarageBand is a great app, as is Keynote; Preview for the Mac is excellent, and Pages and Numbers have gotten better and better. But again, those are exceptions. Mail is an unmitigated disaster. Safari is adequate but feature-poor and only to a limited degree extensible (though at least it doesn’t eat memory the way Chrome does). Messages is barely adequate on iOS, seriously underpowered on the Mac. Even your Settings and System Preferences apps are poorly designed, in the case of iOS shockingly so.
But you have some amazing developers writing apps for your platforms. Some of the best apps, in my experience:
- BBEdit for Mac
- MarsEdit for Mac
- Pixelmator for Mac and iOS
- Omnigraffle for Mac and iOS
- Drafts for Maxc and iOS
- All of Rogue Amoeba’s software for Mac
- All of Panic’s software for Mac and iOS
I could go on. But what I want to say in this post is simply this: Apple, you need to realize that these developers, whose work is better than that of almost any of your own software designers, drive the success of your platform. And yet, as recent events have reminded us, your treatment of them is shabby at best and in some cases indefensible. You charge them extortionate rates for appearing in your App Stores — some are not well-known enough to survive outside an App Store and yet your 30% cut eats so heavily into their profits that it’s barely worth their time to make software — and you apply your rules for appearing in those store inconsistently, even capriciously.
Your behavior has been so frustrating to the people at Rogue Amoeba that they have gotten out of the Mac App Store almost wholly — as Bare Bones, the makers of BBEdit, also did for a few years — but not every developer has the kind of widespread and loyal user base that Rogue Amoeba and Bare Bones do. And of course the iOS App Store is the only source for iOS apps, which may explain why Rogue Amoeba doesn’t make any iOS apps.
Apple, your arrogant and dictatorial behavior makes no sense. It’s not in your interest to frustrate your best independent developers. It’s in your interest to get smart, talented people excited about developing for your platforms. Heck, maybe you should be paying them. But short of that, there are three things you need to do:
- Apply your existing rules consistently.
- Alter those rules to promote maximum creativity and ambition in Mac/iOS software development.
- Take a smaller cut so more developers can stay in the game.