One Developer’s Tale of Mac App Store Sadness

A few weeks back I launched a website called SaveMyHouseFromApple.com.

Admittedly, the domain name is a bit over the top (in a mildly awesome way).  But the problems discussed and highlighted are very real.

Here’s what happened, in a nutshell:

On Saturday, February 18th (which was my birthday… a fact which has no actual relevance to this story… but I think it’s rather funny) Apple experienced a technical glitch in their systems.  This glitch resulted in the termination of my Mac Developer account and the removal of my software from the Mac App Store.

Being as I am an indie software developer (with a wife, kid, dog, fish and two goats to feed) this was very concerning.  Despite the fact that I release my software for multiple platforms (including Linux and Windows), a critical amount of my income comes from the Mac App Store.  An income I depend upon.

But, I figured, no biggy.  These little technical issues crop up from time to time.  “I’m sure Apple will have it fixed first thing Monday morning,” I thought.

A few days passed…

I managed to talk to someone from Apple that Tuesday (I was starting to get a little nervous… as I’d already lost 4 days of sales).  Sounded like everything should be fixed and back to normal within a matter of hours.

*Phew*

Over the course of the week that followed I never heard a peep from Apple.  No replies to my emails.  No returned calls for my voicemail messages.  Nothing.

And, of course, my software was still unavailable in the Mac App Store.  At that point this had now been going on… for a little less than 2 weeks.  Half a month of sales lost.

Now, I completely get that technical problems can take some time to fix.  But the fact that Apple pretty much just went dark for two weeks made me nervous.  Very, very nervous.

So I launched SaveMyHouseFromApple.com for three reasons:

  1. The lost revenue was pretty killer.  So I set up a system where people could “help me out” and, in exchange, get copies all of my software (and my game… and my comics).  Basically it was a combination of a killer “pay what you want sale” and  me standing with my hat in my hand.
  2. I hoped that by talking so publicly about Apple’s issues, Apple might be more motivated to fix the problem (that part worked… at least partially… for a moment).
  3. And last, but not least, I wanted Apple to know that they needed to fix their internal processes so that their third party developers were treated properly (a returned call or email at the very least).

And, the site helped.  Apple got in gear and “temporarily” restored my software to their App Store almost immediately.

By “temporarily” I mean “only until March 15th”.  Their thinking was that this would allow them time to fix whatever the initial problem in their system was.  So they set my Developer account to expire on March 15th (who knows why) because that would be “more than enough time”.

(Just to call attention to that… they actually fixed the problem.  But put a time limit on the fix so that they could… fix the problem.  If your brain starts to bleed a little after reading that… you’re not alone.)

Today is March 15th.

And my Mac Developer Account is still broken (stuck in a state of “pending” according to their system… where it’s been stuck for almost a month).

So.  What will happen now?

Will my software be pulled from the Mac App Store again?  Who knows.  Because I haven’t been able to get anyone at Apple to return my calls.

So now I wait.  And hope for the best (I’m not optimistic).

(And, while I wait, you better believe I’m trying to figure out how to completely end my reliance on the Mac App Store…)

Update: As I typed this, Apple’s stock had hit $600 per share.

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  • Lance hirdler

    So many years i have held apple/mac up to such high standards at first i thought the reason why there so expensive is that they had such a small market share and also you could only buy there products at there store after doing much research on the history of the mac/apple they did not build an OS they purchased one then they spin it like they reinvented the way we do computing and to top it off a dev has to pay to have the privileged to develop an application and if your app does make it apple takes 30% it would be like Bryan i’ll pay you to punch me then every time i say hi you punch me and take my money. This blows my mind this is why i have gone to Linux and support Linux and when i can get enough money i will buy a copy of your software

  • Lance hirdler

    Your software looks very interesting i downloaded the illumination software creator ISO . I’m pulling for ya were all in this together can’t wait until the next LAS.

  • Lance hirdler

    Final thoughts on apple. apple should be Held accountable for your loss of sales and potential sales and for breach of contract and apple should pay you back there cut for every prior sale until the issue is resolved. this is just my opinion if i were apple with out developers apple wouldn’t exist.

  • CG

    Bryan,

    Your Illumination software I have heard of before and find it very interesting.

    Placing trust in a company like Apple to be one’s financially livelihood in this circumstance would make me personally hesitant in doing any type of business with them.

    The lack of significant customer support between developers and Apple has always been a severe problem. Software conglomerates have always gotten away with this type of behavior, yours is not the first case of this occurring and certainly not the last.

    Apple has certainly the capability of having a decent call center environment for such issues for their customers. Maybe all the developers should just drop their accounts, and let Apple’s stock price take a tumble.

  • http://www.codewrangler.com Michael McEuin

    FYI…I just checked and all your apps are now available in the Mac App Store. So, I guess Apple got the message…:-)

  • BlackTiger

    Unfortunately Steve will not phone you this time. :(

    Apple without Steve sucks.

    Time to switch back to Microsoft.

  • http://ricegf.com ricegf

    @BlackTiger, better try the Windows 8 beta first. You might be surprised in a less-than-positive way – it’s… quite different.

    If Win 8′s Metro doesn’t thrill you but you really want to abandon Apple, you might consider some of the excellent Linux-based products around – I’ve found Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, and OpenSuse all to be quite polished (not quite to Apple’s level, of course), and if you learned the Apple command shell, you’re knowledge transfers and you won’t have to learn PowerShell (which again is… quite different). You’ll also find a LOT of variety and innovation, so look around until you find what suits you.

    Costs nothing to try. Runs on darned near everything, including Apple hardware with Boot Camp. Good luck, and drop me a line if you’d like to chat.

  • TimeMachine

    Three pieces of advice:
    1) Diversify
    2) Don’t put all your eggs in your basket
    3) See advice #1

    Keep this web store up. This way you don’t have to pay the 30% tax to Apple for your sales. Also use some other websites like Amazon, eBay, etc. Their fees are not as high as Apple’s.

    In addition, try to avoid getting all of your income from one single activity. I’m not sure how profitable goat herding is but I’m sure goats are definitely more friendly than Apple’s people.

  • Tyler

    I’ve been following this story since it was posted at OSNews.com and was wondering what has happened since?

  • Tom

    Working for a bigger endpoint software company, I can tell you, they treat us the same. We have multiple products running on Apple Mac OS or iOS but getting someone in Apple to help you in any way is almost impossible. And we have a dedicated contact person.

    My worst fear at the moment is, that in ~3 years you will have 3 closed ecosystems (Apple, Google, MS), all with their App Stores or Markets and no way to sell directly to your customers. At that point you are totally depended on the ecosystem owner. And even if you have send years to develop something, they might pull the plug on your software at any time without reason. Which company or person will invest heavily if you cannot be sure to earn some money. It will be the death of all innovation, which requires some investment

  • Travis

    Good for you for having enough emergency savings to survive this; that can be tough, but the risk of being without food and shelter if your income suddenly stops is just too great to ignore and not prepare for.

    As a sidenote, assuming the Apple Developer Agreement still limits their liability to $50 universally, that limitation is a travesty and ought to be illegal, despite Apple’s monopoly power to impose it.