For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

Summary:Expect to see Mac software prices dropping by 90-95% within a month. Hang on!

The Mac software market is about as old-school as you get. Developers have been creating, shipping, and selling products through traditional channels and at traditional price points for decades.

Heck, I ran a Mac software company back in the 1980s and 1990s, and although we sold products mostly in boxes, rather than on the Internet, our prices back then weren't much different than the price points we see today.

Or, more precisely, we've seen until today (and then it all changes).

A quick look at even the clearance items on MacConnection's Web site shows products ranging from in from $35-$70, in the mid-hundreds, and even higher.

Mac software has historically been priced on a parity with other desktop software. That means small products are about $20. Utilities run in the $50-60 range. Games in the $50 range. Productivity packages and creative tools in the hundreds, and specialty software -- well, the sky's the limit.

Tomorrow, the sky will fall. Tomorrow, the iOS developers move in and the traditional Mac developers better stick their heads between their legs and kiss those price points goodbye.

iOS developers are not like Mac developers.

Sure, the development environment is largely the same, but what I'm talking about is their business model. iOS developers are Huns, compared to the Mac developers, which are -- essentially -- Romans awaiting a thorough sacking.

Okay, so medieval history isn't your thing? Let's try this. iOS developers are The Flood. They will annihilate everything in their path, and what's in their path, starting tomorrow, are all the developers who've made a living off Mac software since the 1980s.

Tomorrow, the Mac App Store opens and traditional Mac developers are in for a world of hurt.

How many of you saw the recent Star Trek reboot movie? Raise your hands. That's what I thought. For you four late bloomers in the back, go see it. It rocked.

Anyway, remember the scene where young Kirk is racing his gorgeous vintage 'Vette at top speed? He's driving along, encounters a steep, steep cliff, rapidly turns the car, but it's too late. He jumps from the car and (spoiler) survives, clawing himself up over the edge. But his car is doomed. It plummets thousands of feet to the floor below.

Traditional Mac developers are as doomed as that car.

Tomorrow, their price points are going to plummet as fast as that wonderful C2 did when it encountered the full might and majesty of gravity.

Here's an example from a well-written blog by iOS developer Markus Nigrin. Markus asked four of his iOS developer buddies what they were going to sell their products for on the Mac App store and how those prices would differ from those on the iPhone and iPad.

The news for the traditional developers is not good:

  • Chopper 2 -- iOS price: $4.99. Mac price: $4.99.
  • Air Hockey -- iOS price: $0.99. Mac price: $0.99.
  • ReMovem -- iOS price: $2.99. Mac price: $2.99.
  • Compression -- iOS price: $2.99. Mac price: $3.99.

These are all games and one did have a price difference between iOS and Mac, but it was a buck.

Compare that with Mac games listed on Amazon today. $38.99 ... $19.99 ... $27.54 ... $29.35 ... $54.99 ... $24.38. These are traditional Mac and PC prices.

As of tomorrow, games priced at $20-60 will be competing against games priced at 99 cents to $4.99. The most expensive iOS games are around ten bucks. In effect, game pricing will drop by 90-95% -- on average -- overnight.

What do you think that'll do to all the other Mac software? Sure, Photoshop might still be expensive. But how many under-$5 photo editing programs are there for the iPad? Answer: too many to count.

Expect to see Mac software prices dropping by 90-95% within a month. Traditional developers will fight to hold onto their price points, but they'll be overrun by the Huns and The Flood. They may hold their price points, but they'll be mired in so much noise from the iOS horde that their products will begin to lose traction.

This time next year, the Mac market will look entirely different.

Apple wins. Many of their very loyal developers will lose.

Here's the big question: how will this price-point change impact the PC market? Will PC software prices plummet to match? With $1 software, the Mac's total cost of ownership will undoubtedly drop, compared to PC systems. So what will that do to Apple's market share for the Mac vs. the PC?

I feel for those traditional Mac developers. They've bled in six colors for all these years and now they're going to simply be blood stains on the floor of the Mac App Store.

Update, see also:

Topics: Software, Apple, Hardware, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Software Development

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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