The Apple App Store versus the Vendor

First of all, let's get something straight: I LIKE the Apple App Store for OSX. It provides a great virus/malware-free repository of quality software that's an absolute breeze to install and maintain. However, the pricing of the applications is somewhat disappointing to put it mildly.

Some software titles are great value. For instance if you want iPhoto but not the entire "iLife" suite, then being able to pay peanuts for just that one component is a great offer! Then there's the antithesis of this pricing where despite the Australian dollar flirting with parity against the US dollar, we are being charged ridiculous prices begging the question, "why bother"?

Here's a case at hand. I've been wanting to increase the quality and frequency of the articles I publish on this site and using the built- in tools, whilst good, limits me to only writing when I'm online :( Bummer. So I went hunting and found a great piece of software called MarsEdit. After downloading the 30 day trial I'm satisfied it meets my needs and is worth paying for. So I went to the OSX App Store, and found this:

/assets/images/MarsEdit-AppStore.png

Listed in Australian dollars, so on the current exchange rate is USD$47.35

This seemed a little steep for an application that does little more than turn WYSIWYG into HTML and pump it into an API provided by my CMS. So I went directly to the vendor and found this:

/assets/images/MarsEdit-Direct.png

Now given that the OSX App Store in USD is $47.35 and direct from the vendor is $39.95, that's a price hike of 18.5% for the privilege of using the Apple App Store! This then raises an interesting question; how much overhead should Apple be charging for the consumer for the convenience of the App Store. Lets not forget the vendor though; is this grossly inflated price passed on to them? Who pockets the difference?

I've worked for a company that was in the business of distributing other vendor's software and the consumer often paid a small premium for fixed-price software as the distributor took the risk on the exchange rate and locked in prices for an arbitrary period. The longer the lock-in, the higher the premium. However, with the Australian economy one of the strongest in the developed world, despite recent natural disasters, it makes me wonder how long Apple are locking in prices with vendors...years? decades? glacial ages? heat death of the universe??

Needless to say, I spent my money directly with the vendor in this instance. The 18.5% premium just isn't worth the overhead for such a simple application.

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