Apple takes a 30 percent cut of all sales in its app stores. That's more than conventional e-commerce sales channels such as PayPal and Kagi, or open source digital rights management channels such as AquaticPrime. Although a 30 percent cut is common in the retail box sales channel, in that venue the commission pays for physical product handling and storage space, none of which Apple's (or others') app stores incur.
A second downside for developers is Apple's retention of App Store sales customer data. Apple gives developers daily sales reports and, eventually, cash, but no customer relationship information: no name, email address, or demographic data. But neither do retail box stores. Mac App developers have the option of requesting app registration information upon launch, but nothing prevents a user from entering bogus data. Developers in the IndieGamer.com forum have complained that Apple shouldn't retain customer information while at the same time taking 30 percent of the price.
The 30 percent sales commission seems disproportional for higher-priced, usually more sophisticated apps. In a TechRadar interview, Rogue Amoeba CEO Paul Kafasis complained, "A developer has to do a lot more work providing more features, more functionality. Apple, on the other hand, does no extra work selling a more expensive application, yet their cut (in raw numbers) gets much larger." Major app developers such as Adobe and Microsoft seem to agree: None of their line-of-business products has moved to the Mac App Store in the five months it's been operating.
Although the days of boxed software seem numbered, a two-tiered approach to online sales is likely to continue for some time. First, Mac developers aren't locked into the Mac App Store for delivery (as iOS developers are). "Some of our customers opt for the convenience of the app store installation model, but others prefer to purchase from us directly for various licensing and packaging options -- family packs, user group pricing, etc. And for users who want the bleeding edge, our app updates go to direct purchasers immediately, but Apple takes a week or so to review App Store updates," says SmileSoftware's Scown.
The Mac App Store has a few quirks as well. First, it can't be used to update an existing pre-App Store version of, for example, Apple's Aperture. Although the store "sees" the application as installed, it won't update it. And, at least today, Apple is blocking developers from charging outside an app for subscription services, such as software maintenance, database access, and content feeds.
The reality of working in closed app store environment
Apple's iOS and Mac app stores are famous for imposing restrictive requirements on developers. That's particularly true in Apple's iOS App Store, which is a closed sales venue. Apple determines which apps qualify for entry, and when it deems they do not, summarily rejects them, often without providing clear reasons. Sometimes the reason for rejection is technical, such as an app that violates platform security. But other times the motive is market-oriented, such as Apple's prohibition of Flash video, interpreted code, "objectionable" content, and apps that duplicate Apple product functionality.