When Apple announced OS X Mavericks at WWDC 2013, they didn’t say much about a new feature in Mac App Store software inspired by iOS. Apps can start using a subscription model with in-app purchases. Developers can add subscriptions to apps that offer a service, like file syncing services DropBox or SugarSync, to name a couple.
9 to 5 Mac reported that the new feature will come with the update to OS X Mavericks this fall. Developers can begin allowing customers to buy a subscription for their service from within the app. Currently SugarSync, DropBox or other services must send users to their website to purchase a subscription. Starting with Mavericks this fall developers can collection subscriptions with their apps using one of two options.
- Auto-renewing – a monthly or yearly fee will keep the full service going and charge the user’s iTunes account for the fee at the beginning of the new subscription period
- Non auto-renewing – buy just one period of service at a time, like one month or one year, without automatically renewing the subscription after the period expires
What’s Wrong with Mac App Store Subscriptions
Developers might love adding subscriptions to their apps, but we can see popular apps beginning to charge a subscription for their apps instead of letting users buy once and keep getting free updates into perpetuity, which is how it works now. Developers complain that this makes it hard to keep the doors open, since they can’t keep collecting money for big point releases without creating a new app in the store.
Adobe recently took this route with Adobe Creative Suite. They stopped using the buy once business model and went to a subscription service for Adobe Creative Cloud.
Another useful app in the Mac App Store called DockView did something to support this fear. DockView gives OS X users a preview of the open app windows when the mouse hovers over the Dock icon. They developer updated the app. Now users must buy an unlock code to use the new interface.
Currently users can download an app and keep it forever. If a developer wants to make more money they create a new app and, either leave the old one in the app store, or pull it. Those who bought the old version will still get to use it as is. This new subscription model can break this loophole, forcing user to keep paying for their apps to use them.
Subscription might benefit developers. Users of existing subscription services might like simply paying through the app store. However, we see more apps transforming themselves into a subscription model at the cost of users.