For many years Apple has provided a valuable service to 3rd party developers, and to Mac users, by hosting a directory of software you can download and install for your Mac. You can browse the database on Apple’s web site: http://www.apple.com/downloads/.
This resource helps to bridge the gap between Apple’s customers, who are looking for solutions, and 3rd party developers who are looking to provide them. I, along with most other developers, am grateful for this service.
A few weeks ago, Apple ruffled feathers in the developer community by quietly removing the link to the Downloads section from its formerly high-profile location in the main navigation bar on its home page. This disappointed many of us, as it will likely lead to far fewer casual visitors to the Downloads section, and consequently, far fewer click-throughs to our product pages.
Recently, The Unofficial Apple Weblog observed that Apple has stopped updating the Mac downloads directory entirely. For those few apps that happened to be among the last admitted into the directory, this is a boon. They are permanently fixed as the “most recent” updates, since March 26. For the rest of us, this does not bode well.
Does Apple plan to introduce a new App Store for “authorized” Mac apps? Are they simply disinterested in the Mac since the iPod, iPhone, and iPad have taken one such an important role in their public relations? These are some of the questions that run through the minds of Mac developers as we try to interpret meaning from the unexplained actions.
Mac developers may be feeling a bit sensitive lately. As Apple rides the success of the iPod, iPhone and iPad, those of us who are still cranking out Mac software wonder whether Apple is as excited to boost us as we are to boost them.
But Apple is riding the success of the Mac, too. The Mac is still the heart of everything that Apple does. Imagine an expansive desert where no life seems possible. A settler discovers a spring, churning out water, in the middle of this wasteland. Soon others join in, and a town emerges. Eventually a government is formed, businesses are born, and a thriving economy springs to life. When the brilliant new Town Hall is erected, everybody agrees it is the crowning achievement for the town. It represents every forward-thinking inclination the citizens of this place have, and yet it would not be possible without that water. Without that gushing spring, the town is dead. The Town Hall is worthless.
The Mac is that spring of water that allows life to thrive in Apple’s ecosystem.
I think the failure to update entries on Apple’s Mac downloads site is a consequence of staff at Apple being stretched thin. I would not be surprised at all to learn that the very people who are responsible for reviewing submissions to the Mac downloads directory also serve as reviewers for the iPhone and iPad, either full time or on-demand as submissions for the touch platforms surge.
There have been times in Apple’s history when one of its technologies was clearly being ousted in favor of a successor. The Mac (eventually) obsoleted the Apple II. Mac OS X obsoleted Mac OS 9. In the absence of a clear successor, Mac OS X running on Apple’s sexy, modern hardware, is impossible to declare obsolete. We’ll be using Macs for a long time, and loving the way they empower us to make the most of our iPads, iPhones, and iPods.
And if Apple’s earnings announcement from earlier today is any indication, based on the huge Mac sales this past quarter, they are probably still just as excited to build Macs as we are to use them.