Freelance technical communicator to the stars. Podcaster, video maker, writer of interactive fiction
There are currently two major issues and trends with application development. One is users finding your efforts, and the other is then making money when they do.
Major software vendors like Microsoft, Adobe, and JetBrains have been able to make successful revenue models with recurring billing models for software, but this is a challenge for smaller developers. How can they maintain enough releases to justify a monthly fee? Services like Humble Bundle have helped in someway, but there are typically one-off marketing pushes than a regular sustained income.
In addition to their own Mac utility apps, MacPaw released Devmate in May 2015 as a platform for managing all aspects of application distribution, updates, subscriptions, licences, and reporting. Initially for Mac applications only, there is now a Windows beta program.
Building on the experiences gained from Devmate, Setapp aims to offer another application distribution channel for users and developers, hopefully solving many of the issues that plague Apple’s official App store. The service is a flat-fee subscription service for $9.99 per month (first month free), and launches soon. All applications are ad free, fully featured versions. Setapp is not the first attempt (and neither was the Mac App store) at a more centralized location for finding and updating Mac applications, and it takes it’s place alongside solutions for more developer-focused software like Homebrew, and Cask.
Setapp tries hard to learn from the earlier mistakes of other solutions by working with (and enhancing) the native Mac experience instead of replacing it, and the whole experience is a joy to use. On initial launch it felt like a cross between DropBox and Steam, with application aliases available in a Setapp folder inside your Applications folder.
From inside the folder, choose an app alias, and double-click it, this will show you an information screen from where you can click open to start downloading the app.
As these are standard Mac applications you have access to any of the standard OS X features like Spotlight and Services, even if you haven’t installed the application yet, which is really cool.
Deleting an application will instantly recreate the ‘alias’ file, ready for re-download in the future.
Setapp aims to make the experience as seamless and ‘Mac-like’ as possible, but also adds a unified updater, something that the Mac App store aimed to do, but also forces too many limitations on developers.
One minor issue I found was that before downloading anything the folder is over 100mb (with the current app selection, which is a small percentage of the planned number). It’s not a major issue, but I wonder how large the folder could become before you have downloaded any ‘real’ applications.
MacPaw are focusing on quality, not quantity with their app selection, and the current selection shows that, including apps that I was excited to finally have full access to such as Ulysses and Gemini. If you want your app considered, get in touch with the MacPaw.
MacPaw have based the revenue model for Setapp on two income streams, best explained in these two images.
First a revenue split based on your original application price and the number of users:
But there are also referral fees for getting new users to sign up to Setapp:
The percentage that Setapp takes will be about 10% and includes handling billing, privacy protection and updates for you, as well as administration and infrastructure overheads.
I wonder how well this model will work for applications that people use irregularly, like ‘CleanMyMac’, one of the current applications, as I am likely to run this only once a month.
I found the Setapp experience flawless, problem free, and so Mac-like I barely noticed the short delay getting hold of an application I needed. Hopefully MacPaw will convince enough developers to sign up their apps to justify the price, and help solve the problems of Mac developers and users alike.
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