Today, with the launch of Logic Pro X one of the longest running questions in App Store history has, perhaps, finally been answered: What will Apple do when one of their major apps gets updated? And that answer appears to be, charge $199 for the new version, same way they charged $199 for the old version just yesterday.
Apple doesn't and has never provided a mechanism for upgrade pricing on the App Store, either for iOS or for Mac. If a developer wants to make a new version of their app, they currently enjoy 3 options:
- Keep the same app and make the update free for everyone.
- Make a new app and temporarily reduce the cost for everyone, so existing users don't have to pay full price again, and allow new users to take advantage of the reduced price as well.
- Make a new app and keep it at full price so everyone, existing users and new users alike, pay top dollar.
The first option makes it harder for developers to justify the resources necessary to offer updates in the first place. The second option increases complexity, pisses of overly-entitled customers who don't think other people should get the same discount they're getting, reduces potential income from new users, and leaves the developer with an orphaned app to take care of. The third option has the same complexity and orphaned app issues as the second, maximizes potential revenue, but pisses off almost all existing users.
For a long time now, the community has wondered what Apple would do. After Apple moved iWork and then pro apps to the iOS and Mac App Store, it was wondered how Apple would handle updates for them when the time came. And wondered. Apple, it turned out, was in no hurry to offer updates. iWork languished for years (and now rumor has it it might go free in the future), Final Cut Pro X already had its big update and X2 is nowhere in sight.
Absent anything else, speculation ran from Apple enabling proper, traditional App Store upgrades just in time for their own release, to Apple bending/breaking their own rules to their own advantage, to Apple simply switching to free for everything.
But now, finally, Logic Pro X. And it turns out, for Logic Pro X, the third option is exactly the one Apple went with. Everyone who bought the original Logic Pro yesterday for $199, if they want the new Logic Pro X today, now has to buy it again for another $199.
One instance does not a pattern make, of course, but we'll likely never get a ton of data points on this simply because Apple doesn't make a ton of paid apps, especially not pro apps. So, for those of us, developers, designers, journalists, and customers alike who've been wondering what would happen when this day came, wondering just what Apple would do when one of their paid apps came up for update, well, we may effectively have our answer.
New app. Full price.
For the record, I bought the old Logic Pro a couple of weeks ago, and I paid $199 for it. I bought the new Logic Pro X this morning and paid $199 for it as well. I did the same when Tweetie 2 launched as a new app, and versions of Twitterrific, and Instacast, and many other apps. I have no problem supporting great developers and designers, including those that work for Apple, and especially for software that used to cost many times what it does now.
However, there's historically been a large amount of backlash when developers charged for new apps. Logic Pro X is such a big update, at such a reasonable price (for a pro app), Apple has so much money, and pro apps are such a small part of their business, that they may well be effectively immune to any negative sentiment this causes.
That's certainly not the case for independent developers who have to feed their families, and who have historically counted on the traditional upgrade model and revenue stream to do it, and are much more sensitive to customer sentiment over it.
This might well be the new normal, and everyone might well have to figure it out going forward. And that could well require a computing generation to happen. iOS migrants, those who started in old-school computing, will likely have the hardest time. iOS natives, those who started with the App Store, likely won't even think about it.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts, though. Whether you sell and/or buy software on the App Store, if the upgrade model really is and will remain "new app", what does that mean for you?