The very popular iPhone and iPad RSS reader app, Reeder, now has a beta available for the Mac. I think what happens with it is going to have a big impact.
What Reeder for Mac can do for the desktop app ecosystem is show other developers that users are willing to pay for desktop software with have roots in mobile, and that take their UI elements and style from mobile. It can also show the hundreds of thousands of apps that have been developed for mobile that they have the opportunity to find more users, and profit on the desktop.
It will be hard though. It will probably be even more challenging for app developers than when they ported their iPhone apps to the iPad. The design challenges in some cases may be serious. One that comes it mind is how will the user interaction change on the desktop? What do developers need to think about when they escape two standardized form factors and their apps are used on screen sizes anywhere from 11″ to 27″ large? How to they maintain a consistent experience given that variability?
Economics comes into play as well. What needs to be considered in creating an application experiences that are different enough to pay the higher prices developers will look to charge for desktop apps? How will the buying habits of smartphone and tablet users translate to purchasing desktop software through the the Mac App Store? For what will users be willing to pay, and how much will they spend?
Are people going to be expect to find Universal apps that they could use across both their desktop, as well as their devices? In the App Store, universal apps help make it an easier decision to buy an app since those users will be able to use those apps on both their iPhones, and their iPads. Even so though, it’s also not uncommon to see some of the best applications in fact not be universal, but instead to have different versions priced differently for each platform.
I think like some of the pressure that Google’s currently facing, what will happen is that social recommendations will start to play a bigger role replacing algorithmic rankings based on data like the number of purchases or reviews from strangers.
The risk of buying software on the desktop is bigger than on smartphones as well. Prices for professionally published desktop apps are much higher than most iOS ones. Even a $30 desktop app, while not considered for the desktop, is easily more than ten times the cost of a typical iPhone app, and five times more than iPad apps.
Will that risk of purchasing expensive software for consumers translate into a risk for software publishers to put more resources into desktop development?
I may be making the faulty assumption that it’s the iOS developers who will have the biggest impact on the Mac App Store. Maybe the amount of developing up to the Mac from iOS will be small compared to the opportunity it will create for existing Mac development shops, as well as for new groups starting with desktop development.
One possible outcome in either case is that desktop publishers who have always sold quality software for $40 will have to start competing with dozens of new entrants charging $5 in the same app store.