For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

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


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • I don't see it

    Just because you can buy some silly iOS game for $2, i don't see that affecting the price of a mainstream title like World of Warcraft
    • agreed, but ...

      @enkh855 <br>i don't think some silly iOS games are the issue here, the problem for mac developers is apple itself. in their marketing material they have already shown what they are planing to do: selling all their ilife and iwork programs separately for $14,99 or $19,99 each. that is for a program like pages (which is a good enough word processor for most people) or even imovie or garageband. developers will have to be able to compete with these price points. apple is setting the conception that a good and useful software title will cost you not more than 20 bucks on the mac. from tomorrow on everything else will look outrageously expensive. <br><br>and yes, i think the mac app store will be huge. and as david asserted, it will totally change the whole value proposition of the mac platform for a lot of people.
      banned from zdnet
      • Um, not sure about

        either the hurt this will cause traditional developers or the likelihood of a large market shift.

        It's important to note that the overhead in developing, delivering, updating, etc. the software will be MUCH lower if your ONLY distributing through an on-line store like the Apple or Android stores. The full development and maintenance life-cycle of a product is cheaper. Additionally, there have been many < $5 programs for PC/Mac for decades (yes that long), and they have not slaughtered the $40-$50 games.
        Mr. Copro Encephalic to You
      • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

        Mr. Copro Encephalic to You --

        Congratulations on choosing one of the funniest screen names I've seen in a long time!
      • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

        @banned from zdnet
        The 5 iLife programs for $14.99 each will cost MORE than buying the iLife Suite for $49.
        Apple wins again! The capitalists always win when their products APPEAR to be cheaper.
        Be very cautious and cynical!
    • take a look at Infinity Blade... $6.99

      @enkh855 ..i don't think you are aware of what is actually available on iOS these days...
      • Agreed.

        @doctorSpoc I was going to mention this as well. This game (and others) are raising the bar for IOS apps.

        I think that certainly the volumes of sales will go up for the good apps. Not having to manage their own storefront will allow SW companies to take cost out of their business model that they can take as profits or redirect to R&D.
      • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

        There's also a point that if you want a game diversion, are you going to stick with your collection of high-priced games, or just pull up an 'app' game instead?

        "There will be... " pressure. Although apps may not compete directly, feature-wise... they may steal user time/attention.

        Gorgeous, immersive, large-scale games will still draw the dedicated gamer and take substantial resources to develop, perhaps more on the PC side.

        But will a majority of users go for apps that are 'good enough'... maybe not a 90% drop for old vendors, but perhaps 40-50% for most. The app'ers may decide they want a little more $$, and dry up their depth on phones, if not pads.
    • Not to mention saturation

      Developing a title for the Mac means you may be the only (or one of a very small few) developer selling something like it. as an iOS developer you are now producing a title that could have a dozen or more similar versions competing against you.

      So you make a title on the Mac that sells for $50 that 500 people buy or you make a title for the ipad that sells for $5 that 10,000 are interested in buying but you have 8 competitors(if your lucky) who leave you with 12.5% those sales.
      Mac sales $25,000
      iOS sales $6,250
    • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow


      Yeah it's amazing. Tried Fruit Ninja (WP7 of course) and looked at that global phenomenon Angry Birds on an iPhone (seems a lot like artillery). Amusing for a few minutes. The limited UI means very few functions and more complex games become simple side scrollers.

      Then there's the problem of either vulture posture trying a tablet on your lap or a table or squinting at a 3-5 in screen.

      I thought dumbing PC games down for console was bad, but a phone OS is even worse.

      I wonder if they could get my hand to become transparent too, because it's real hard to see the screen. The real lesson for traditional Mac developers is to stop being masochists and get some modern development software by switching to Windows ;-)
  • Final Cut?

    When Final Cut Studio drops from $999 to $299 or less I *may* put the unused MacBook Pro on my desk to good use. Otherwise, sticking to Windows and Sony Vegas for my video editing needs, thank you.
    • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow


      They did this ages ago: $199
      • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

        robin said Studio, not the cut down express edition.
        There is a huge difference.
      • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow


        Final Cut Studio is not the same as Final Cut Express.
      • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

        I'm quite aware there's a difference. But how is it any more silly a reply than suggesting Apple discount it's full Studio suite 70%. Especially when Sony Vegas runs for what? ~$600?
    • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

      Funny you should mention that. I am exactly in the same situation: My macbook pro is largely left unused (I loved that machine though) especially because I use my Sony VAIO with the Vegas suite for video editing.
    • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow


      Yep my choice for video editing as well. Sony Vegas platinum on a quad core Win 64, cheaper, faster and without that annoying OS/X UI.
    • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

      @robin@... LOL its like saying that photoshop is expensive, nobody ever bought it... Cant you just pirate it on the MAC?
      Tommy S.
  • seriously

    Don't compare iOS software with professionally done packages. Games like Call of Duty or Super Mario Galaxy just can't be produced and then be sold for 5 bucks.

    iOS is mostly indie software done by tiny companies or hobby-devs.

    You are truly comparing apple and oranges. And as always being extremely sensationalist in doing so.
    • RE: For traditional Mac developers, Armageddon comes tomorrow

      @patibulo Is that true for ALL iOS apps? I seem to have a few "big names" on my iOS devices.

      What is being forgotten is "cost of entry" with Apple's "App Store" that has fallen to zero. If I want to give my product away (ad supported, content supported, just simply want to give it away) Apple don't charge me for being in the store, the bandwidth, nothing. This itself is new.

      Do I think it'll be apocalyptic for traditional Mac developers? I don't think it will be, those iOS developers seem pretty happy. In many ways trying to split them is a misnomer there is a huge overlap. Developing for iOS means using the Mac tools and Cocoa frameworks, being a Mac developer is a huge leg-up to becoming an iOS developer. These aren't really two groups at all, more like three; Mac only developers, iOS only developers, and Mac/iOS developers. The biggest being the second two groups (by far).

      Do I think the price of applications will fall? Yep. Is this going to hurt Mac developers? I don't think so, they have more options, probably a bigger market, and the cost of entry to this "brave new world" is zero.

      Will this affect Windows? You know, it just might.