CompileSwift Podcast – The one about Apple, Developers, and how we get through it

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Season 2 Episode 24

Things will get interesting in this episode; it’s time for me to talk about my thoughts on both sides of the app store argument that is currently a very heated topic, you might say, in the Apple developer ecosystem.

I’m sure you cannot be an apple developer at this point and not be aware of the discussions taking place about Apple and how they’re treating the developers and their approach to the app store for third parties. Plus, of course, the Epic versus Apple battle is currently taking place in the courts as this post is published.

On the outside, it’s straightforward to think that this is a simple thing, it’s very black and white and right and wrong, but that’s not the case, and I’m going to explain to you why I think that.

Before you stop and say, oh, I don’t need to listen to any more of this. Yes, you do if you’re an Apple developer. But let’s break this down. Let’s take two different approaches here.

I’m going to try and look at this from the developer’s perspective. And then, I’m going to try and look at this from Apple’s perspective and see what kind of middle ground may be possible at the end of this.

So let’s first of all, take the developer’s perspective. I am paying $99 a year, although really, it’s over a hundred dollars with tax. The 99 looks good from a marketing perspective. So I’m paying a yearly fee to put my apps in the store. Then on top of that, if I am charging for my app, Apple takes 15%. Unless I’m making a ton of money, and then they take the 30%.

OK. So firstly, as a developer, I’ve paid for an expensive Mac, but I chose to do that. They give me some tools for free to develop the apps, but they charge me to put them in the store.

OK, there are of course running costs for the store. Nobody’s going to question that. But it’s the double-dip part of charging me to put my apps in the store and then taking some of the money from every sale.

You know that doesn’t sit well with me, but I have made my position clear before.

If I am making a reasonable amount of money from an app and Apple takes 15%. I’m OK with that. It doesn’t bother me, but. I would say should I be giving money out of my pocket twice. That’s my problem there.

It is fair to say that the feeling in general, or at least the impression that the upper levels of Apple don’t care about developers. Many people have that opinion.

We care enormously about these things, and we’re very sensitive about these things because it’s their livelihood for many. So, of course, you will be very sensitive to anything that may cause stress or financial issues. 

Anytime apple does something that doesn’t sit well with us, we get heartbroken about this. The critical thing to remember here is that it’s not exclusive to Apple developers and platforms.

Because we focus on Apple platforms, it feels worse because it’s right there in our backyard. OK. So that’s the developer’s perspective. And I get that, and we’re unhappy about it. And I get that too. And we’re making a ton of money for apple. Yes, I get that.

Now let’s flip it over and look at it from Apple’s perspective. 

From the top-level perspective of apple, let’s take the CEO. The CEO is responsible to the shareholders. Maybe as a CEO, you shouldn’t be caring about engineering all the time and developers. Your primary responsibility is financial.

And as we all know, Apple has had incredible financial growth, very well-deserved with excellent products. But we also all know that cannot continue forever. There’s always a plateau where things start to level out and then start to drop off. We’ve seen this with so many technology companies before now.

Before anyone gets on at me about this, I am not saying Apple will dive; that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m talking about growth here. You can only sell so many things to so many people before that growth starts to level off. Maybe it dips, but it doesn’t mean you’re in any financial difficulty or failing as a company. It’s just one of those inevitable things you can’t be on top of the tree forever.

As a CEO, Your responsibility is to try and keep maintaining that growth because your investors, your shareholders, expect that. You have got to keep that market value up and. Apple makes it very hard for itself because its market value is so good.

From Apple’s perspective to developers, I’m looking at it this way. Hey, you know, developers, we didn’t make you build apps for our platform. We want you to. But we’re not forcing you to do it. You chose to do it. We’re giving you some tools to do that.

We want you to pay $99. You choose to do it. You put an app in the store, and we say, look, we’re going to take 15% or 30%, and you choose to agree to that.

Of course, the big thing is that you are choosing to do this. It isn’t easy to talk about a monopoly there because they control their platforms, but your choice is to embrace that platform again.

Apple is a company, and the primary role of a company is to make money. We all think it’s to innovate, make these amazing things, and keep coming up with new, unique ideas. But its purpose is to generate revenue.

At one time, Apple was about the dreams of wanting to make a difference. Now it’s run by ‘financial first’ thinking people, which inevitably causes problems further down the road.

So, what are some of the compromises here for both sides?

As developers, we have to face the reality that we already know, but we tend to try and forget or ignore it. We are making things to put into a monopoly system, meaning you have one way into the app store. For that matter, Apple can take you out of the app store whenever they choose rightly or wrongly, for whatever reason.

As developers, we are using that one way into the platform to distribute our work. We are making that choice. No one is making us do that.

Apple needs to stop charging for the apple developer program or figure out another way to do it because there is no valid reason to justify the cost anymore.

They need to stop double-dipping.

Also, Apple needs to buy themselves as much Goodwill with developers as they can, because as we all know, further down the road at some point. Just like the days when the Mac started to fail to keep the company financially afloat, the diehard supporters kept them alive.

I’m sorry, apple. There’s every chance that will happen to you again in the future because you won’t be on top of the tree forever. I’m not saying I wish this to happen. When it happens, you need as many people as possible to help support you through that period while you restructure.

I suspect Apple’s not going to address their developer problems, relationship problems at all during WWDC21. The smartest thing Apple can do is say nothing right now because anything they say will probably hurt their argument even more.

Talking about WWDC, I think. Everybody needs to shelve this right now, and let’s wait to see what happens.

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