To sell apps for the Mac, you can use the same developer account but you’ll need to also register as a Mac developer. So that means paying Apple another $99. Your Mac and iOS apps will be available through the same iTunes account, but App IDs and provisioning profiles are managed seperately.
With those notes, let’s see why the smart app business develops apps for the Mac and iOS app stores.
1. Desktop apps sell for a premium
Mobile apps are usually free, or 99 cents. At the most they go for something like $2.99, and many users are going to balk at such an expensive price. Developers hope to reach a large number of customers in order to strike it rich.
In contrast, desktop apps can sell for anywhere from $10 up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars, depending on how specialized they are. As a result you don’t need to sell very many copies to make real money. In my own app businesses, I’ve had Mac Apps that only sell 5-10 copies a day that bring in more than $100,000 a year. Some developers are fools – they develop Mac apps and try selling them for 99 cents or a couple of bucks – but studying the top grossing lists you’ll see that this is not a winning strategy. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Productivity and business oriented apps are always great for desktop applications. Here is a construction cost estimator. It sells for $39.99 and offers several in-app purchases that are $49.99 each. At the time I’m writing this, the app is ranked #14 in the Business category – so you can see right away this is a good model for making serious money.
Business and personal scheduling and time management apps do well in the Mac Store. For example this calendar app is ranked in the top 5 of the Business category, and sells for $49.99.
To charge more than $20 and so make great money, your app doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It just has to be useful. So start studying the Mac App Store and brainstorming.
2. Mac Apps have greater exposure
The iOS app store has a million apps in it. Unless you’re selling a game, there is no “new releases” section to give new apps exposure. In contrast, there are not nearly as many apps in the Mac App Store, and the Mac App Store still includes a “new releases” section. Apple allows you to to place your apps in two categories, and it shows up in the “new releases” section of both categories, giving it even more exposure. Since the Mac App Store isn’t as hopping as the iPhone/iPad app store, your app will stay at the top of the “new releases” section longer, giving it more chance to get traction and get on a best selling list.
3. Mac Apps allow you to build a customer base across all of Apple’s devices
The smartest strategy is to build an app that people will want to use on all their devices. Users that have bought iPhones and iPads are going to migrating from Windows PCs to Macs. Having an app that users need and can install on their iPhone and iPad and their Mac is a great way to build a solid customer base. In fact you can exploit the increased visibility of the Mac App Store to drive sales of your iPhone and iPad apps. Consider building apps that store data in the cloud and you can create a suite of apps that allow users to work on the same data on their Mac, their iPad, and their iPhone.
4. The Mac App Store has a more diversified app base
If you check the overall top selling and grossing lists on the iPhone/iPad stores, you’re going to see tons of games. Other apps – although many are making great money- are way down on the list. In the Mac App Store the top grossing list is pretty surprising. There are hardly any games. This provides an opportunity for developers of productivity, business, and other types of apps.
5. Freemium doesn’t reign supreme
The app store in my view has decayed in a race to the bottom. Since you couldn’t cut prices from 99 cents, developers began going free and trying to make money from ads or in-app purchases. While you can do that, in my view its going to be iffy for the vast majority of developers. The paid model remains supreme in the Mac app store, allowing you to make money upfront without having to harass and annoy your users with ads.
6. Diversity leads to more stability in income
Creating a business that depends on one income source isn’t the smart way to go. Your first impulse is going to be to create Android versions of your iPhone apps, and that might be an important leg in your business. But it is foolish to not make Mac versions of your iPhone apps – and experience shows you’re more likely to make money from Mac versions of your apps than you are from Android versions (but not saying you shouldn’t also target the Android platform). When you have diversity you’ll be better situated to weather the inevitable ups and downs that confront your business. When your iPhone apps see their sales drops, you’ll have a buffer with your independent Mac apps, and vice versa.
7. Build Extra Value
The tech world is fast changing and the mobile app space changes even faster. As a result you need to be thinking of an exit strategy so you can cash out before its too late. A more diversified business that shows income from multiple sources is going to be more valued by business buyers, and command a higher selling price.
8. Its Easier to Establish a Brand
Since the Mac App Store is smaller, indie developers are more visible. If you create a suite of apps in the Mac App Store you can create a brand presence in the store seen by millions of customers. Use it to sell more apps in the Mac App Store but also to springboard apps in the iPhone/iPad app store.
9. The Mac share of the computer/pc market is growing
While general PC sales are stagnant and even in decline, and customers complain about the boondoggle of Windows 8, the Mac continues to increase its share of the desktop market. Developing some Mac apps lets you ride this trend.
10. Take Advantage
Take advantage of an opportunity 90% of mobile developers are ignoring in their quest for the iPhone gold rush.
While most app developers are focused or should I say obsessed with mobile apps – the savvy business person utilizes the Mac App Store as a significant part of their business plan. The desktop isn’t dead, and despite pronouncements to the contrary, the reality is that computer users are not going to replace their laptops, notebooks, and desktops with iPads. At the time of writing, the future of the Windows 8/8.1 app store is still too uncertain, so I’m going to ignore it for now, but you’ll want to keep it in mind for future expansion. In the meantime, start expanding your app plans to include development specifically for the Mac.