Some of my most inviolable principles about developing and selling software are:
- I can write any software I want. Nobody needs to “approve” it.
- Anyone who wants to can download it. Or not.
- I can set any price I want, including free, and there’s no middle-man.
- I can set my own policies for refunds, coupons and other promotions.
- When a serious bug demands an update, I can publish it immediately.
- If I want, I can make the source code available.
- If I want, I can participate in a someone else’s open source project.
- If I want, I can discuss coding difficulties and solutions with other developers.
The iTunes App Store distribution model mangles almost every one of those tenets in some way, which is exasperating to me.
But, the situation’s not that clear-cut.
The entire post is very thoughtful and well worth reading, it’s also coming from a long-time Apple developer rather than some crank from an online magazine looking to stir up advertising hits. Panic’s software is wonderful: Transmit is an application that singlehandedly makes me want to use a Mac (yet it’s only, uh, an SFTP client). I think his post nicely sums up the way a lot of developers (including myself) feel about the App Store. He concludes:
I’ve been trying to reconcile the App Store with my beliefs on “how things should be” ever since the SDK was announced. After all this time, I still can’t make it all line up. I can’t question that it’s probably the best mobile application distribution method yet created, but every time I use it, a little piece of my soul dies. And we don’t even have anything for sale on there yet.
Reading this also made me curious to learn more about Panic, which led me to this interview from 2004 with Frank and the other co-founder. He also has a number of side projects, including Spamusement, a roughly drawn cartoon depicting spam headlines (Get a bigger flute, for instance).