The Mac App Store will shortly be launched, and will be populated with retail versions of applications for the Mac, submitted by developers through a procedure similar to the iTunes App Store. As 9to5Mac has pointed out, Apple has made it very clear on their App Store website that developers should only submit final retail versions of their apps and that the Mac App Store is not the place for beta versions or demos. Apple, instead, requests that developers host preliminary versions of the software on their own site.
This policy seems, at first, to be a reasonable request by Apple as they simply want functional and polished apps for their App Store. But, I believe it is wrong of Apple to limit their App Store to final retail versions. What would be wrong with having a section of the new App Store devoted to betas or demos? Would those apps undergo the same rigorous review process and be offered free of charge with a disclaimer? Perhaps no, perhaps yes. Maybe it wouldn’t be a terribly cost effective venture.
But here’s the argument. Developers rely on user feedback and testing in order to work out bugs and develop features based on what users want. Mac apps are going to be a whole lot more complicated than iPhone apps given the power that is available to them, and the new App Store is the ideal place to test those apps. Would there be a problem with offering time-limited, free editions of apps? No.
By limiting the Store to final versions, Apple is inadvertently making the development process longer than it needs to be. The App Store will be a one-stop shop for App purchases and offers a captive audience of potential beta testers. It’s not like people wouldn’t know what they were getting themselves in for and I’m sure being involved in the beta process or testing out features of an application before launch would sell a hell of a lot more apps.
Developers put in a lot of work to create apps and, if successful, can generate a substantial amount of earnings from them through via the App Store. But remember, Apple gets a fair wad of cash too. Offering to host beta software in a special area of the Store would be a gift and a favor to developers in helping them create innovative, solid programs that they can sell. It’s good for the Dev and it’s good for the end-user. And, with the rigorous amount of assessment offered by beta tests, it would be good for Apple too.
Come on Apple. Experiment with this and see where it takes you.