If so many billions of dollars change hands between customers, Apple, and developers, then why are there so many orphaned apps on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and why are some app developers forced to put apps on the store for free?
Adobe, Microsoft, Games, Oh My!
My Mac has the Adobe Creative Suite Photoshop bundle. For about $10 a month I get the latest updates for Photoshop and Lightroom; both popular and feature laden flagship apps. As a necessity for business, my Mac also features Microsoft’s Office 365 and Office apps for the Mac, also a $10 a month subscription.
Adobe seems to be doing well under the subscription model, and Microsoft has embraced it as well. But what about their iPhone and iPad apps. Excel, Word, and PowerPoint for iPhone and iPad are free. Now, Adobe’s popular Lightroom app on iPad and iPhone is free.
It wouldn’t be free if Adobe could figure out a way to make money with Lightroom for iPhone and iPad. They tried. The earlier versions of Lightroom iOS were tied as a companion app to Lightroom for Mac and Windows. No more. Why?
Competition. Look at all the photo enhancement and management apps for iPhone and iPad– from Snapped to Pixelmator– and you’ll see that even brand name apps have trouble making money. Adobe is gambling that it can broaden the market appeal for its apps by giving them away for free (you don’t even have to subscribe to ADobe’s Creative Cloud Photography Plan).
This change in strategy highlights a growing problem with Apple’s app stores. While game apps with in-app purchases seem to be doing well (the competition is intense), more mainstream productivity apps are struggling to find a profitable niche. If app giants like Adobe and Microsoft can’t make it work, who can?
Neither Adobe nor Microsoft are in danger of having their app store failures drive them out of the mobile device business, but many, many apps on both iTunes App Store and Mac App Store have yet to receive upgrades to run on iOS 8 or iOS 9, or Mac OS X Yosemite or El Capitan. If the TV show The Walking Dead is about zombies, then the app stores are being overrun by zombie apps; they’re dead, but they’re still alive and available for purchase and download, despite not being ‘alive’ for a few years.
That growing trend is dangerous for app developers, dangerous for app store customers, and dangerous for Apple. How do you find such zombie apps? It doesn’t take much effort. Visit the iTunes App Store or Mac App Store, enter a keyword search, and sort by Release Date. The most recently released apps will be on top, of course, but there will be dozens of pages of older apps without recent updates. Most of those are zombie apps.
What can Apple do to prevent the zombies from overrunning the app stores? Kill the zombies. Apple curates app submissions to the store by developers, so now it’s time to cultivate the store and rid it of apps which have yet to be updated to run on iOS 8.x, iOS 9.x or the latest two versions of OS X, Yosemite and El Capitan.