Apple Downloads

April 20th, 2010

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.

25 Responses to “Apple Downloads”

  1. Tony Arnold Says:

    It’s good to see a bit of sanity prevailing in amongst all the fear-mongering of late.

    I’m certainly anxious about Apple’s commitment to the Mac in a world where the income generated by iPhone OS devices is skyrocketing, but I’d like to think this is just an awkward phase in Apple’s growth. The simplest answer is usually the truth, and I’m with you – they’re probably just busy.

  2. Jeff Hellman Says:

    I, too, have been watching this closely and have come to generally the same conclusion as you.

    I’m doubly bummed because I believe I submitted an update a day or two after the freeze. Wish I had submitted earlier and was at the top of the list. I missed a good chunk of traffic after a major update. Such is life.

  3. Mark Munz Says:

    Well, I’m somewhat less optimistic.

    Perhaps it is because I was around when Apple shunned its computer cash-cows (Apple II) for the new kid on the block (Macintosh). Or perhaps it is because I was around when Apple had a know-it-all attitude (OpenDoc).

    There is definitely a sense that the global attitude at Apple is that they can take developers for granted (’cause there is always another one waiting in the wings). It is King of the Hill, everyone wants to play on that hill and developers put up with a lot just so they can play on that hill.

    But let’s hope you are right and that Apple will soon return to updating the Downloads section. Even better would be if they found a way to put the Downloads link back on the front page, maybe as a pop-down menu (ala iTunes store top bar categories menus).

  4. natevw Says:

    While I can’t remember a break this long, there have been a number of occasions (around holidays, major launches, etc.) when the reviewers stopped approving updates for a week or two at a time.

    It’s felt like the difficultly has grown to getting the word out about my Mac shareware over the past year, so I have mixed feelings about a Mac App Store. It could bring a great benefit to both users and developers, but if run the wrong way it could crowd out most of the existing update/review community.

  5. Kris Markel Says:

    I wonder if everyone who’s job it was to review apps for the downloads page has been moved to reviewing / approving iPhone and iPad apps. It would seem to be a similar skill set and we know that Apple recently ramped up the speed of app reviews, presumably by adding reviewers.

    If this is the case, I would hope that eventually some people could move back to reviewing apps for the downloads page, but given the growth of the app store, I’m not optimistic that this will happen.

  6. Jacob Gorban Says:

    Just yesterday had I had a short twitter chat with Kevin Hoctor about that and I wondered if AppBodega being the featured download on Apple’s download page is a sign of something or is it only a coincidence.

    Anyway, I hope this is only temporary as the traffic from the site is quite valuable in term of downloads and sales.

  7. Sylvain Says:

    I rather think that teyr are just late and overbooked by iPhone/iPad applications and next OS X.

    Time will tell if the Mac software store will land somewhere.

    But is Apple.com the sole entry point for application downloads?

    Don’t user still have a direct access point through their Mac’s Apple menu?

  8. Rich Pollock Says:

    Surely this is either a temporary approval hiatus or a sign that a Mac app store is in the works. As Sylvain points out, there are links to that page from every Mac’s Apple menu (and from the “Manage Widgets…” widget in Dashboard).

  9. Doug Adams Says:

    I am not sure I want them to resurrect Downloads the way it was. I always found it difficult to find anything; usually, I could *discover* something, but trying to find a utility for a specific purpose was always difficult. Like an old-style info-mac archive with a GUI. As far as my own software, after a week or two in the Most Recent list, I’d rarely detect a hit. Macupdate, VT, and my own site deliver much more consistent downloads; better Google results most likely. If they are re-directing personnel and energy to iPhone/iPad approvals then that might be a better use of resources in the long run.

  10. John C. Welch Says:

    I gotta say, the way Apple’s downloads site was set up, it was kind of useless, and they never did a good job of keeping up with things. Versiontracker, macupdate and others were always of far more use to me in that respect.

    I can’t say it’s useless, obviously you and others get something out of it Daniel, but i can’t say i’ve used it once in the last 3-4 years either.

  11. Graham Says:

    I don’t think people should think that Apple is going to abandon the Mac just because its also making other successful products. They sold nearly 3 million Macs in the last quarter, after all, which is more than ever before in Q2, and they’re getting more revenue from the Mac than the iPod. Mac OS X and iPhone OS are closely related and are both at the core of Apple’s success over the last decade. Apple would be foolish to abandon this momentum.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple is either just revamping its web-based Mac software directory – which would explain the recent lack of updates – or it’s going to come out with something App Store-like for the Mac too.

  12. Cesar Tardaguila Says:

    Well, it’s not the first time that Apple Downloads site is not updated for some time, usually during busy periods at Apple (or hardware/software releases)

    However, one month is something to worry about. Today the submissions server was up again, after a few days down, so there are signs that point to a recovery of the usual activity levels.

  13. Michel Fortin Says:

    Even before it stopped updating, the download section seemed understaffed to me. It took about two months for my app to show up after initial release (and 3 updates). I’m glad it made it before the unannounced cutoff date though as I’m getting non-negligible traffic from there.

  14. delhiboy Says:

    I would worry about Apple abandoning the Mac when they talk about abandoning iTunes. As long as you need iTunes to sync/transfer everything to the iPod/iPhone/iPad etc, the Mac will flourish. In addition, what are the creative types going to use for creating content for these devices? Windows?? I think not ;-)

    As for the “Downloads” area, I have rarely used it in the past few years. It always felt “clunky” to me. Great tip about the “Apple Menu” though – I have been using MacOS X since 10.1 and this is the first time I actually clicked on that menu item ;-)

  15. Jeff Hellman Says:

    For me, the Apple Downloads section is a great traffic source (I don’t know if being a “Staff Pick” helps tremendously, but it can’t hurt). In terms of raw traffic and eventual purchases, it dwarfed MacUpdate and VersionTracker.

    I don’t doubt that Apple’s undertaking a redesign of the downloads section. Hopefully the redesign will just make finding software easier and continue to redirect traffic back to the developer’s web site rather than trying to make an all-encompassing “App Store”.

  16. Sylvain Says:

    Apple has several options:

    1. Drop support for download section and let it languish.
    Not sure of this.

    2. Bring up a new shinny AppStore for the Mac.
    That’s much more challenging than the AppStore for iPhone only regarding the required badwitdth. A different solution ala Bodega (http://appbodega.com/) would make more meaningless the approval process (Apple no longer hosts the apps, it’s just a directory).

    3. Revamp the download and make it more user friendly.
    I rarely find something usefull by just browsing. It’s toooo deep.

    I don’t beleive in 1st and 2d solution for now. Future will tell :)

  17. David W Says:

    IF (if!) Apple does abandon the Mac OS X Downloads page, it will be a very bad move for the developer community.

    Many developers — myself included — rely heavily on the Downloads page for our businesses. Yes, it is a courtesy by Apple, but it’s a hugely useful courtesy for both developers and consumers.

    Apple, please do not abandon the Downloads system. And do not treat your developers as a resource to be harvested; as a profit-making asset.

  18. David W Says:

    I contacted Apple about the matter, through their support links. I finally received a reply from them, to the effect that if I had a problem with WIDGETS, I should try resubmitting them.

    But they completely ignored my questions regarding Mac application downloads.

    It doesn’t look good.

  19. Neil Anderson Says:

    Looking forward to a Mac app store!

  20. Graham Says:

    Steve Jobs says “Nope” to the idea of an App Store-like store for Mac software:
    http://www.macstories.net/news/steve-jobs-no-mac-app-store/

  21. David W Says:

    And now Apple no longer have design awards for the Mac at WWDC. If anyone needed further proof of how low the Mac ranks at Apple, there it is.

  22. Martin Baker Says:

    The downloads pages just got new products listed yesterday, so hopefully it was a temporary glitch and updates will continue.

  23. Vlad the Impala Says:

    FYI, the site now sports at least five pages of new updates, between 5/28 and 5/25.

  24. Terry Alls Says:

    I want to believe Mac has my best interest at heart, but recent disappointments I have experienced with their desire to obscure software problems with Snow Leopard and their distinct lack of customer/product support leads me to conclude they are becoming nothing more than a flash and glitter organization. Rush to market for the cash and let the customer be on their own.
    Open sourcing is the way of the future; both they and Micro** are missing the whole point of technology – service for the user.

  25. John C. Welch Says:

    Terry,

    When has open source EVER cared about the non-technical user?

    It doesn’t, because Open Source is not *designed* for end users, it’s a development and distribution methodology. It’s about making life better for programmers and distribution mechanisms. In fact, there’s a rather large part of open source that actively disdains anyone without the skills to patch or write code.

    Which is why the main users of “pure” open source are…programmers and sysadmins.

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