Mac App Store upgrade issues

November 24th, 2011

As you’ve probably seen, releasing Dropzone exclusively on the Mac App Store has generated some controversy.

Here are the main concerns customers have. I’ll do my best to answer them:

Why is Dropzone 1.0 only available on the Mac App Store? I purchased the non-Mac App Store version and I should be entitled to a free upgrade:

Yes. I would agree and normally be happy to offer this. I always intended to offer a free upgrade to 1.0 for users who purchased the earlier version. Unfortunately the Mac App Store doesn’t provide me with any way to accomplish this. Apple give out 50 promo codes per version of my app, most of which got used up in the first few days for reviewers and giveaways. I also gave away about 25 codes to people who had bought the pre-Mac App Store version in the last few weeks.

OK, fine. So why won’t you release Dropzone 1.0 via sparkle and then I can upgrade for free like that instead of purchasing again on the Mac App Store?

Unfortunately I had to modify Dropzone significantly so it would pass through Apples app review process and 1.0 works a bit differently from the original version. It now resides in the menu bar instead of the dock. Some users prefer the app in the dock and I don’t want to release an update that significantly changes the core function of the app, which would definitely upset some users.

OK, so then make the upgrade an optional download and then users can decide whether they want to upgrade or not…

Yes, I could do this. The issue with this is that the Mac App Store version and the original version use completely different licensing systems. When I began work on the Mac App Store version I stripped out all the registration and licensing code used in the original. To release the Mac App Store version I would have to add all this licensing code back in and then maintain 3 completely different versions of the app, the Mac App Store version, the non-Mac App Store 1.0 version and the original dock based version. That’s a large amount of effort for questionable payoff. I feel that this time could be better spent adding new features or improving the existing version of the app.

But can’t you use separate Xcode build targets to automate the three different build targets and automatically produce non-MAS and MAS compatible versions?

Yes, in theory and this is what many developers are doing to produce a MAS and non-MAS compatible binary. I’ve started going down this path with another one of my apps and it’s really pretty messy, I have to have a lot of macros in the code to do stuff like remove this ‘Purchase…’ menu item if this is the non-MAS version, don’t include this registration NIB if this is the MAS version etc. I can’t bring myself to mess up the MAS version of the app with all this after stripping all the registration stuff and I would still have to maintain the original dock based version of the app in a separate Xcode project as it is so radically different to the menu item based version.

This is your own fault for moving onto the app store. If it creates this many problems for developers and users then why even move to the store in the first place?

When the Mac App Store was introduced I saw a significant decline in sales and many people emailed me asking when Dropzone would be available on the Mac App Store. I was making almost no sales of the original app and could no longer afford to spend time developing it. I needed a way to get back in the game. I watched many developers re-launch their apps on the Mac App Store and exclaim that their sales were higher than they had ever been. It became clear that I needed to make my app available on the store, or cease development of the app altogether.

What about offering a limited time discount on the Mac App Store so that users of the original app can upgrade at reduced cost?

I wish I’d thought of this. It’s a good idea. Users would still complain, but maybe not to this degree. If I drop the price now then users who have already purchased on the Mac App Store would be upset. But also bear in mind that Apple is taking a 30% cut of sales, so if I priced even lower I wouldn’t make very much.

Let me also say, I’m not entirely in disagreement with those who are upset. I’ve been on the user end of this mess as well. I’ve had to repurchase many apps myself that I had already purchased outside the store. I wasn’t thrilled about it but I did it. Unfortunately the nature of the Mac App Store rules have lead to a situation that is less than ideal for upgrading customers. You have to keep in mind that there are many positive things to be said about the app store as well. Apples review process boosts the overall quality of apps, users can easily use their apps across multiple Macs and don’t have to worry as much about security and malware and the store also allows users to find great apps more easily.

As I have said, I will still update and maintain the original version of the app and I’m truly sorry that this update has caused upset for many of my customers.

7 Comments

  1. Eric says:

    I probably one of the early adopter of drop zone bought it when it was 0.3
    I try it and like it so I bought it.
    I was going to buy the App store version when I saw that it changed to menubar and decided to hold off since my menubar is already full of menu items.
    If you release update that allowing the user to place the icon in the dock instead of menubar, I would certainly spend my money to get MAS update.
    This is more of like feature request for you to consider.

    Thanks
    Eric

  2. John Winter says:

    Hi Eric

    I wish I could do this, but unfortunately having Dropzone reside in the dock like it did requires a bunch of hacks that Apple would never allow in the Mac App Store. That’s why I changed it to a menu item.

    You are certainly not alone in having the problem of to many menu items. I’m working on another solution where the grid slides out from the side of the screen. It’s early days yet so no promises, but this may end up being the solution for you.

    John

  3. Ian Fenn says:

    As I noted previously, my issue is the same as Eric’s – my menubar is already full and there’s just no way I can consider repurchasing the program if that’s the only way it works. Sadly I’m unsure how practical sliding the grid out from the side of the screen will be, particularly with multi-monitor set-ups. :-/

  4. Rich says:

    The problem is not having to repurchase it – I understand your difficulty. The problem, as a non-US citizens, is getting gouged through the exchange rate. I’m paying nearly $16 bucks for the privilege of buying your app a *second* time. Who decided it was UK Pounds 9.99 – you or Apple?

  5. Ian Fenn says:

    Rich, Value Added Tax will be added for App purchases in the UK.

  6. I am one of the users who bought the non App store version of the application and used it happily for quite some time. I also just purchased the 2.0 version from the App Store. I, personally, have no problem making this second purchase because I feel like the 2.0 version is significant enough of an update to justify purchase as a new application. Users get the sense that they’re entitled to “forever” upgrades when they make a purchase. If that’s what the developer chooses to do, that’s fine – but in reality, I purchased the old version, paid a fair price, used it for some time, and then chose to upgrade. No one forced me to buy the new version. It’s not like the old version quit functioning. I personally don’t have an issue with your strategy.

  7. John Winter says:

    Thanks for the support John!

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