Daniel Eran Dilger
Random header image... Refresh for more!

When will Apple release an App Store for Windows?

Daniel Eran Dilger

Apple has barely begun setting up its Mac App Store, but I’m predicting the company will want to bring the same thing to Windows PCs within a year or two. Here’s why.
Rise of the Apps Stores

Some people didn’t see the point of my advocating for a Finder Store and thought I was reading too much into the importance of iPod games until the iPhone came out. At that point, I suddenly looked like the conservative one, writing that Apple was unlikely to ever fully “open up” an App Store for iPhone that let anyone do anything. I said that based on Apple’s history of working with developers who, as should be expected, followed their own interests rather than doing what was best for Apple.

The consensus at the time was that Apple needed to throw open the gates and let everyone have a crack at developing iPhone software without any restrictions, and doing anything less than this would be “closed,” another word for Evil amongst populist pundits.

Once Apple released what it would later describe as its “curated” approach to software on the iPhone, there was a lot of howling about how developers were being oppressed by the Evil Apple, and how this might be rectified by the rebel Jailbreak community, who were predicted to find great success by running around Apple’s restrictions and giving the people what they wanted, or at least what the pundits decided the people wanted.

Six Reasons Why Apple May Never Open the iPhone

Careful what you wish for

When Google announced it would be delivering for Android pretty much exactly what the populist pundits thought people needed, it was hailed as the “Windows that would trounce the Mac,” as developers would presumably flock to Google’s unrestricted platform and leave Apple stuck with an App Store in a life support coma of developer indifference.

A year or two later, it’s now obvious that Apple’s approach was far more successful. While there’s still a lot of junk in both the App Store and Android Market, only Apple’s store has a been generating real wealth for developers. Android’s remains a hobbyist collection of get rich quick junk, dominated by wallpapers and ringtones purporting to be apps.

Search for the few legitimate apps that have been brought to Android, and you’ll be inundated with scads of garbage pretending to be what you’re looking for, with no “curation” from Google holding back the tides of trademark infringement junk ware, and only the most bare attempts to retroactively put out malware fires after customers report being incinerated. It’s a Chinese import junk store compared to Apple’s Bloomingdales, even if openness ideologues refuse to admit this reality.

Inside Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone OS as software markets

Software Sells Systems

How Microsoft Got its Office Monopoly

For Apple, the point of the iPod Games and later the iPhone App Store was to sell hardware, turning third party software into yet another type of content consumers could purchase through iTunes. The Mac App Store brings the same thing to the Mac platform.

So why on earth would Apple want to create a Windows PC app store, or for that matter, create a Server App Store for Mac OS X in conjunction with licensing its server OS on third party hardware (as I recently advocated)? Neither would sell Apple hardware, and if anything, only give users a reason to stay put on rival hardware rather than switching.

I’m betting Apple will investigate a Windows version of its desktop App Store for the same reason it brought Claris AppleWorks to Windows (very successfully), brought FileMaker to Windows (again, very successfully) and brought QuickTime and iTunes to Windows (once again, very successfully). In the first two cases, the pre-Jobsian Old Apple created software for Windows in order to make money. The Windows market was simply bigger.

But more than just selling more copies of its software, Apple’s Claris software subsidiary was helping to legitimize its apps in general. It was, at the time, competing against Microsoft’s Works on both the Mac and Windows. By having a Mac-only version of AppleWorks, Claris was not only missing out on sales, but also restricting itself to fight Works with one arm tied behind its back in a world where most people and companies worked on both Macs and Windows.

Office Wars 1 – Claris and the Origins of Apple iWork
Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly

Jobs: software sells Macs

The result back then was that Claris outsold Microsoft Works in both the Mac and Windows markets, and continued to do very well until the rest of Apple collapsed around it, requiring invasive surgery by Steve Jobs to cut out the necrotic bits of the company so that the rest of it could survive. By the late 90s, all the cross-platform Claris software was so old that it made more sense to sell it off or discard it rather than trying to keep it going.

Jobs then took Apple’s software goals in a new direction: exclusively selling Mac software. The company purchased Macromedia’s Key Grip project and canceled the Windows port of Final Cut, making it Mac only. It later bought Logic and discontinued the Windows version. It then released iLife and iWork apps as Mac-only titles. All of those actions were desperately needed to breathe some legitimacy into the Mac OS X platform and make it positively differentiated from the de facto Windows PC.

Apple’s efforts to focus software at selling Macs ran from the core OS through to its top level applications. But Apple also continued to maintain Windows ports of key Apple software for other reasons similar to those of Claris a decade earlier. QuickTime needed to be on Windows for the same media platform-legitimizing reasons: were it Mac-only, it wouldn’t matter.

Software sells iPods

Apple continued this pattern by releasing iTunes for Windows shortly after the release of iPod. While Apple had been selling plenty of iPods to Windows users in a bundle alongside third party music software, things really took off when Apple added an iTunes version for Windows, which brought the same desktop integration Mac users enjoyed.

One might argue that this prevented iPod users from buying Macs, but the real goal was to sell iPods to Windows users who were not interested in buying Macs. After several years of stratospheric iPod sales, Apple added the iPhone and most recently the iPad to its offerings, and continues to sell a large number of iOS devices to Windows users. We know this because Apple sells far more iPods and iOS devices than it sells Macs.

Software sells standards

Apple also released another Windows app, for a third reason. Like QuickTime, Apple began offering Safari for Windows, not to profit directly (both are free) nor to sell hardware, but to propagate its web browser engine as broadly as possible. Apple did the same with Bonjour, which is essentially the automated networking features of AppleTalk translated into Internet Protocol standards.

Internally, iTunes for Windows also served this purpose by bringing AAC support and later H.264 playback (along with FairPlay DRM) to a vast audience, establishing both as preferred standards to the older (significantly patent encumbered) MP3, less sophisticated H.263 (aka DiVX), and Microsoft’s rival Windows Media Audio and Video (aka VC-1) codecs.

Apple had limited resources to push Safari adoption on Windows, but when Google released Chrome and began paying partners to use it (to fight back against the dominance of Internet Explorer, and Microsoft’s control over the web’s ad revenue and the potential for emerging web standards such as HTML5), Apple got exactly what it wanted: widespread adoption of Safari’s WebKit. This paved the way for WebKit to become the most popular browser engine on mobile devices, although Apple’s hardware essentially made that happen on its own.

And so it is that while software sells hardware, it also sells platforms. Apple is a hardware maker, but it really is a platform vendor. Once Apple achieves the goal of selling Mac apps through a storefront, its next step is to bring that store model to Windows. Why?

I’m So Glad You Asked

Ostensibly, at least in the minds of the people who fear Apple, this would be to profit from that 30% cut Apple charges developers to retail their apps. Sure, Apple could make more money by selling more apps to a wider audience. But there’s a better reason for Apple to bring its App Store to the Windows PC.

The platform Apple wants to sell is Cocoa. It tried, initially, to sell NeXTSTEP’s development frameworks as a piece of middleware that could run on any operating system. NeXT had already been doing this for several years, enabling developers to create YellowBox apps that could run on NeXTSTEP, Solaris, and Windows NT. By 1997 however, Apple was not seen fit to deliver a cross platform development system. Sun abandoned Apple to devote its efforts to Java, and Apple gave up on its hopes to layer YellowBox on the Classic Mac OS. It simply wasn’t up to the task.

Instead, Apple planned to replace the old Mac APIs with YellowBox running on the modern foundation of NeXTSTEP. That plan was rejected by Adobe, Microsoft and other Mac developers who didn’t want to rewrite their extensive application suites just to serve the dwindling market Apple could claim.

Why OS X is on the iPhone, but not the PC

The new Cocoa

Today however, Apple has the power to stipulate what APIs its developers can use. It does this (on iOS devices) by only listing software that abides by its rules. By controlling its platform, Apple puts its developers in the position of assistants, rather than masters under which it must grovel for their continued support. The Mac App Store will bring the same level of “no, use Cocoa” to the desktop. Why wouldn’t Apple want to bring this to Windows PCs?

The reason Apple doesn’t sell its Pro Apps or iLife or iWorks on Windows has always been to add exclusive value to the Mac. At this point however, Macs are greatly outpacing the growth of the generic PC. Microsoft is floundering in its efforts to push its developers from old Win32 APIs to its vision of modern computing, which keeps evolving.

Over the next year or two, Apple will have an opportunity to bring Cocoa development to the Windows desktop via an App Store that sells titles to a broad audience, without much reason to fear that its own Mac platform will dry up and blow away.

Cuckoo for Cocoa

I speculated that Apple might have this in mind when it brought Safari to Windows, but I was wrong. Apple wasn’t porting Cocoa to Windows to deliver Safari; it was using native Windows frameworks. But there’s no reason why it couldn’t do this however. The much smaller NeXT managed to bring its frameworks to Windows with far fewer resources. However, once Apple turned NeXT into Mac OS X, the opportunity to bring Cocoa apps to the wider market of Windows evaporated as the company mingled its old and new frameworks together in a way that was not intended to deliver cross platform compatibility.

Completing the work to host Cocoa apps on Windows would require significant efforts. What’s the payoff? For starters, Apple could then port its iWork apps to Windows, rapidly broadening its sales prospects. Thousands of Mac developers could also bring their apps to Windows as well, offering Apple at least a sustaining cut to maintain Cocoa cross platform.

Additionally, rather than building apps in some kluge like Java or Adobe Flex (think Flash for apps) or Silverlight, Apple can offer developers its own API that is not only managed by one vendor (unlike the mess that is Java) but also offers an App Store to promote and sell their apps to a hungry audience (unlike Flex or AIR or Silverlight or Java). This would incentivize developers to use Cocoa in the Mac and Windows App Store rather than building lowest common denominator apps that reach the Mac through ugliness like Flex (like the new EyeFi app).

Because Apple now controls the APIs developers will use to create Mac App Store titles, it can now manage the work required to make Cocoa platform independent. This was much harder when most Mac software was written in Carbon or some mix of the two, or when developers were able to use deprecated or private APIs that Apple didn’t want them to use.

One might suggest that there is a risk for Apple that consumers might no longer see an advantage to the Mac if all their software were also available for Windows. However, the main allure of the Mac is its hardware and software integration and innovation and its retail store support, not its selection of a few exclusive, Mac-like apps.

Cocoa and the Death of Yellow Box and Rhapsody
Cuckoo for Cocoa: Is Safari on Windows the next iTunes?

iOS, back to the Mac

Apple already leverages enormous clout in the mobile realm with iOS. It is the only mobile platform where developers are making significant money. Making it easy for those same developers to target Macs is the first step, but bringing the same development tools to Windows is definitely the next one after that. There are lots of iOS developers who would jump at the opportunity to create desktop apps to accompany their iOS titles, and having an App Store that only allows them to sell these to Mac users isn’t enough.

Again, bringing Cocoa apps to Windows not only broadens the market for Cocoa apps dramatically, but also legitimizes those Mac titles. Were Apple able to sell iWorks to PC users, it could make enough more money to devote significant new resources into iWorks. And there’s nothing stopping Apple from making the Mac version of iWorks more attractive by hooking into features the Mac platform has that Windows lacks, such as support for Services, Automator Actions, AppleScript, and so on. But bringing iWork to Windows would also make it easier for Apple to sell its apps to Mac users, as cross platform companies could actually chose iWork for all their users, were it appropriately competitive and cross platform.

A Cocoa App Store for Windows would also make it easier for Apple to deliver subsequent versions of iTunes and Safari for Windows; currently the company has to build two separate versions. Apple certainly isn’t the only company targeting both Windows and Macs. While Microsoft and Adobe have developed their own internal systems for building Mac and Windows apps, there are a lot of developers who simply lack the resources to devote all their efforts at creating separate builds of each. A Cocoa Apps Store for both Mac and Windows would solve a number of problems, at little cost, and in a self sustaining manner.

But what do you think?


1 brew57 { 11.12.10 at 4:03 pm }

Great idea. Let’s hope they improve iTunes on Windows while they are at it.

2 gkpm { 11.12.10 at 4:19 pm }

Windows is such a mess as a target that any app store would feel clunky. Maybe Microsoft could do it, but I don’t think even they have the focus needed to do this. Certainly Apple won’t even try. And yhy would they? Macs are selling more and more every year.
Having Cocoa only on the Mac gives them these exclusive features that keep on selling more machines.
Safari was ported to Windows mainly because they needed web developers to test and develop their websites to work with it, and subsequently with the mobile Safari browsers. Also good to have that ‘foot in the door’ to continue pushing their interpretation of HTML5 and “standards” such as Quicktime on the web.

3 stormj { 11.12.10 at 4:20 pm }

I think this may happen, but I would say it’s much more likely if Mac sales don’t continue to grow. If they reach some critical mass—say 33%—then they should focus on market share through Mac sales and “killing” Windows.

Also “de facto Windows PC”—you mean de facto standard Windows PC? De facto often used in that combination, but it means the opposite of “de jure”—something that comes from decree, but may not be, in fact (i.e. de facto), what’s going on. Like, Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the GOP, even if Michael Steele is its de jure chairman.

4 AlleyGator { 11.12.10 at 4:33 pm }

In 2003, Apple got it in its head to pursue explosive growth with iTunes, and to eat up all the market share in an entirely new industry with strong lock-in factors: Legally downloaded Music with DRM. So they needed a Windows Platform desperately before somebody got their act together and started competing strongly.

I think Apple could make a lot of money with a Windows App Store, personally. I don’t think they’d do it with iWork, though. iWork and iLife are perks of being a Mac owner, and help differentiate the Mac OS in a way that lures consumers.

I also don’t see them porting Cocoa to Windows. As Steve has mentioned, the OS X platform is outgrowing the PC industry now.

No, I think you’re mis-reading the tea leaves on this one. Mac Software has tended to have a problem of exposure in retail stores and even online to a lesser extent. Apple is tackling a user experience issue of “why is it SO EASY to get a cool app on my phone but not my powerful desktop computer”? They’re going to leverage their great user experience to encourage people to buy Macs even more, and hopefully put Best Buy out of business in the meanwhile.

[Mac sales are outpacing growth in the PC world, but they still represent a vey small minority of all PCs. Launching Cocoa as an API option on the installed base of Windows machines would move Apple from selling desktop apps to 50 million Mac users to a billion PC users, 200x larger potential market. That’s the same reason it sells iPhones and iPads and iPods to Windows users.

Additionally, Apple would attract developers interested in selling apps that actually sell, and aren’t just pirated. This kind of market has never existed before; Apple now has tremendous ability to attract interest from developers in a way that MS, Java, and Flex lack, and in a way that can’t be replicated on the web. – Dan]

5 gus2000 { 11.12.10 at 4:38 pm }

If Apple ports Cocoa to the Windows platform, then the next evaluation of Mac security will include all the Windows’ vulnerabilities too.

6 shadash { 11.12.10 at 6:47 pm }

If Cocoa were really successful on Windows, developers might be persuaded to use those APIs instead of Win32 ones, making it easier not only to port applications from the Mac to Windows, but more importantly, from Windows to the Mac. The key reason to use Windows would be moot.

7 broadbean { 11.12.10 at 9:52 pm }

Daniel, why does Apple not legitimise Mac OS X Extended by including something like a simplified version of MacDisk or MacDrive as well?

8 Ashr { 11.12.10 at 10:41 pm }

(I’m sure some of the above commenters has said something of the sort of what I’m going to say, still I’m going to argue in a vacuum for efficiency.)

I don’t believe there will be a Window’s App Store.

[thanks for the comments, you raise some interesting points so I responded in context to them below: – Dan]

#1 Apple doesn’t derive that much revenue from App Stores.
It’s not a large portion of their bottom line. If that 30% was a huge deal we’d see it catching more headlines.

[Apple makes no money on QuickTime, iTunes or Safari for Windows, but each has valuable strategic reasons for existing. The Mac app store also exists for other reasons. So Apple doesn’t need to do more than break even on a Win App Store, and that would be easy to do given the volume such an audience would have.]

#2 Windows is a bad platform.
The App Store for iOS has demonstrated that Apple believes that quality is the most important aspect of Apps. Such quality is only possible in a clean environment. Only the Mac and iOS platforms have such cleanly constructed software and hardware foundations to allow such quality to be developed. Window’s is fragmented, old, scattered, and not conducive to a good App development.

[Intel x86 is a bad platform too, so bad that Intel tried to ditch it with Itanium. Yet Apple uses it for the same reasons it uses QWERTY keyboards. Most of the problems with Windows relate to usability and consistency. Bringing Cocoa apps to Windows wouldn’t solve all its problems, but would establish a beachhead and a visible presence for Apple on the world’s largest platform. It doesn’t need to be excellent or ideal underneath. It wasn’t for OpenStep Enterprise (YellowBox on NT), wasn’t for QuickTime, and isn’t for iTunes, but they still worked and served useful purposes.]

#3 The App Store would create a Windows-Mac link.
I agree, pushing an App Store to Windows would help Coca. However, it would tie Mac development to Windows development. Developers would say, “Hey, I’ll just toss my development on both App Stores, who cares about the hardware or software it runs on.” Even if Apple was extremely strict on APIs and quality, the link would erode the quality of the Mac development base. You’d be creating a toxic connection between Windows and Mac.

[But what’s the alternative, encouraging cross platform developers to use Flex/Java/Silverlight or something else instead of using Cocoa? If you were targeting both, would you use Cocoa on the Mac & Flex on the PC, or just Flex for both? That’s already happening. If Apple wants Cocoa development, it needs to support it where developers are targeting.]

#4 Apple hasn’t done well when it’s pushed Mac software to Windows.
You say that Apple would like to bring iWork and such to Windows, even Apple has shown it can’t be done well. Apple has shoved over native applications before, notably Safari and iTunes. They’ve only been met with success when it came to the latter. People have to use iTunes on Windows because of iDevices, otherwise the Windows implementation is, through no fault of Apple’s, clunky, slow, and under appreciated. Safari has faired worse. It holds little share of the browser market on Windows and is still mediocre compared to it’s competitors. If Apple can’t make software work well on Windows, why would Coca developers at large do better?

[Claris and Filemaker were both successful, as I pointed out. So was QuickTime and iTunes (to say the least!). Safari was taking on IE. It took a bigger share than Opera, and only yielded to Google Chrome because Chrome achieves Safaris goals. So I have to disagree that Apple hasn’t done well as a Windows developer. It’s done very well, without trying all that hard.]

#5 Lowest common development.
With each release of OSX Apple shows off new software features that help advance the platform. Tech like GCD, openCL, full screen apps, multitouch, and the like, are being pushed to make software run fluidly on future hardware, Apple is advancing their systems and moving towards a clear future. Microsoft is not. Developers would become stuck, Apps developed would target the large share of users they could code for, Windows users, leaving advanced features that are on the Mac ignored.

[That’s going to happen even faster if Apple fails to bring Cocoa to Windows. If it does open a Win App Store, it can use it to demonstrate the superiority of Mac features. Of the tech examples you give, GCD and OpenCL are intended to optionally increase performance and efficiency. If they’re missing on Windows, the same apps will simply work faster on the Mac. Full screen apps and multitouch are core to Cocoa, and not dependent upon Windows to deliver on the PC.

The App Store is also very competitive in a way the software world has never seen before. If developers get lazy on the Mac, they’ll just be bypassed by teenagers with better skills seeking to fill the niche.]

#6 Microsoft wouldn’t play along.
Microsoft would not ignore an Apple run App Store on their platform. They’d treat it like an infection, they’d make a competing store, develop Windows around keeping the Apple App Store out. It would be eradicated, or at best minimized to extinction. Even if Apple made the store very nice very quickly, all it would take is a major operating system realize to break it, say the quote-unquote “ambitious” Windows 8. Anti-trust people may complain, but all they have to do is point at Apple’s insistence on platform advancement, and it’s moot.

[Microsoft also tried to kill QuickTime and certainly isn’t happy about iTunes, but that doesn’t matter, does it? Apple can’t afford to scamper away from threats.]

#7 Apple already supports a cross platform source, web Apps.
It may not seem like much but I think you’ve said it before. Apple’s closed kit is App development, the open system is the Web. With Apple’s investment in tech like HTML5, SproutCore, H.265, and web standards Apple could take things to the cloud and reach Windows users, maybe not quickly or in a way we’ve seen before but it’s there, and it’s a real option.

[Yes but web apps lack a business model. And HTML5 is a long ways from delivering significant, even if casual, games or titles such as iWork. iTunes isn’t a web app.]

#8 Coca isn’t that important in the grand scheme.
One of the underlying motivations you suggest Apple would have for pushing an App Store would be for advancing Coca. You say that Coca’s success would bring success to Apple and the Mac. I don’t think Apple sees it that way. Sure there would be a boost in popularity for Coca but ultimately Apple seems to treat things like it as a means rather than an end. Apple used Carbon for years, when it came time to move on and advance the development for the Mac platform it axed Carbon, cutting it at 32-bit. They did the same with Flash and HTML5. I think this shows that the platform is more important, and when one is against the other supporting subsystems like Coca lose. The Mac is where the action is, and it’s not dependent on Coca. It may be useful now but they’d create a beast, something that needed to be fed, maintained, and couldn’t be easily upgraded or fixed. Apple isn’t Oracle, they’re not floating a language, they sell integrated hardware and software that makes an experience, not a subsystem to build with.

[Cocoa has been waiting to reemerge since the mid 90s. It’s finally getting to the point where it can. And I disagree: Cocoa is very important. With Cocoa, Apple can take apps and make them portable, using ARM chips or whatever is next. Apple can finally liberate the PC from Intel x86 were the opportunity to arise, allowing it to pick up its App Store and make a transition.

I see a move to Windows not as a goal, but a step towards attracting more developers to the Cocoa fold. Once that happens, Apple can lead them to new classes of devices running the same frameworks (evolving as needed) on any core os, and any CPU architecture. PC developers are currently wedded to x86 and Win32/.Net. They can’t take their apps to smartphones and tablets because MS doesn’t have portability in Windows or in CPUs. It’s stuck.

Apple can stop its pickup at the corner where Windows Developers sit and load them up like so many migrant workers and take them to a place where they actually have the ability to actualize their ideas without being chained to x86 & win32. They’ll love it. The goal isn’t reaching Windows with Cocoa, it’s liberating Windows with Cocoa!]

#9 All this risk to turn Apple into what?
Say all of this works magically. Development goes smoothly and Apple starts selling it’s own software and other’s on the Window’s App Store. What would Apple be exactly? It would become a software company, just another Microsoft or Oracle. They’d make money but it wouldn’t be an experience, it wouldn’t advance computing. They’d just be another software company. What makes Apple products so much better is the integration. Hardware, software, and everything in between working well, designed to fit together. If they just sold software and development platforms they’d be nothing special and we wouldn’t care about them at all.

[Well first off, there isn’t much risk involved. Secondly, the payoff is advertising Mac-like apps to Windows users and inviting them to run their new software on nicer, faster Macs at their next upgrade cycle.

Convert PC users from running a few expensive, probably stolen apps on Windows to running lots of cheap App Store titles. Now they’re ready to switch to the Mac in a way PC users have never been before. Plus, Apple could sell them MobileMe, app integration with iPhones and iPads and Apple TV, and reach never-gonna switch people with app sales. And cross-promote iTunes content sales and related hardware. – Dan]

I think this is one of those cases where the theory sounds better than the practicality. I think you should toss this one into the short stack of off predictions.

9 cy_starkman { 11.12.10 at 11:14 pm }

Here’s a reason. A Windows AppStore would sell more Macs, lots of them.

Because to effectively develop for the API’s you need to be developing on a Mac. I understand that Apple has loosened it’s grip on middleware but still you need Macs to make Appstore apps.

Couple that to the comment above that it will be easier for Windows developers to port to Mac and consider if the primary development hardware for MacOS, iOS, WebKit and Windows were Macs….

That’s a lot of Macs and it’s also key people who influence many others, once they are there they will then also start to convert.

Why not? Apple is somewhat dominant in video et al, take over another creative production industry. Software.

10 Rup { 11.12.10 at 11:45 pm }

Nice idea.
Two points :
– to promote the platformon Windows, Apple will certainly start (and maybe never go beyond) offering Windows deployment of Mac-developed software : no XCode on Windows, “come and develop on the Mac, then deploy on Windows, the legacy platform, and get for free the possibilityto deployon the Mac” !
– I worry about future (long term) decisions against Apple to break up or open up their business because of anti-monopoly ruling : in that case, if they are told to open up Cocoa, or forced to accept competitors to have their word in Cocoa evolutions, then being on Windows might expose Apple more rapidly to such anti-monopoly decisions.

11 gkpm { 11.13.10 at 1:25 am }

The single biggest reason Apple doesn’t sell more Macs is that they’re perceived to be much more expensive than PCs. The so called “Apple Tax”.
If a Windows App store could offer the same apps on cheapo boxes running Windows how would this help Apple sell more machines?

[First off, a tax is a fee charged by an authority. Microsoft taxes the PC industry with a Windows Tax, acting as a monopoly and a virtual government regulating nearly all PC sales. A tax is not a premium price paid for a luxury item from a certain vendor. BMW doesn’t charge a “tax” when it sells cars that are more expensive than a Chevy, it charges a premium. A premium is not a tax, and a tax is not a premium. Microsoft invented the idea of an “Apple Tax” to deflect the very real criticism that it truly does tax the PC industry, but this is a lie designed to fool stupid people. – Dan ]

Even if apps were somehow limited on Windows – on performance or features – people would still prefer to adapt than pay the “Apple tax” (people hate taxes)

[Only stupid people hate “taxes,” as they don’t understand their purpose. When a democratically elected government taxes profits or transactions to pay for social expenses supporting the well being and security of the nation, its in the interest of those paying the tax. Only idiots think that taxes are inherently bad, believing everything their told by the ultra rich, who convince them to support ideas not in their benefit ($4 trillion wars, $1 trillion handout to the ultra rich) and demonize ideas that are (a < $1 trillion stimulus creating and preserving millions of jobs, billion dollar public works projects that are critical to the nation, etc). It's very clear that lots of users are happily paying an Apple Premium to get a better class of experience than they can get with a low end PC. That won't change just because both can run the same apps, and certainly not because of some idiot mongering lie by Microsoft that pundits like to chatter off as a talking point. - Dan]

Sure they would make their 30% on the apps, but after all the fees add up (credit cards, servers, development) how much of that 30% really remains?

Also there’s these mention of previous applications that Apple produced for Windows in the past. But what is that single most important application that Windows users salivate for? Final Cut Pro. Is that on Windows? No. Apple actually killed the Windows version as soon as they bough

[I explained why Apple canceled the Windows versions of its Claris and Pro Apps. Cocoa on Windows would require Apple to port titles like FCP or Logic. And Apple is certainly not losing money on iTunes transactions. More is better; it helps to reduce overall overhead as a percentage of sales]

Also an app store on Windows would be clunky and unless poked by a stick Apple doesn’t do clunky. Sure it might be good to have that for bargaining power but I highly doubt they would do it at this point.

Saying that, one of that big sticks that might push them into doing it is Google’s Chrome Web store. But looking at Google’s recent track record that might just last 6 months until they get bored and move somewhere else.

[The Chrome web store offers no business model to encourage direct sales of volumes of apps. It can’t and won’t. It might create opportunities for Google to advertise more. Google is not a software vendor however, and doesn’t care about any platform other than HTML, largely because web ads is its core competency. – Dan]

12 gctwnl { 11.13.10 at 2:13 am }

Hmm, this is the first time I end reading RDM feeling ‘it doesn’t add up at all’. The question is: what is an AppStore for Windows going to sell for Apple? Software sells systems, right. So what system does the software of a Windows App Store sell? The answer you give is ‘Cocoa”, the platform (which also is a ‘system’). But Apple does not make money from selling Cocoa.

Apart form difficulties of protecting the quality brand image (Windows App Store apps not working properly because of underlying Windows/PC problems which are out of reach for Apple to fix), there is no money to be made there as it doesn’t sell a system.

What it could do is open up a road for the OSX/iOS to expand by first establishing a (App Store) ‘world of software’ in the Windows world en then expanding the system sales to it, but it would be a dangerous strategy as people could just buy Windows PC’s and run the App Store ‘app world’ on it.

Secondly, there is more to apps than Cocoa. Many OS X apps need to interface with the OS in some way. And Cocoa does not cover all of that.

So, I don’t see this as a viable scenario.

Still, I wonder what Apple is planning with that surge in Data Center capability they are building. Even the rumor and analysis sites are almost empty with information that makes it possible to guess where Apple is heading with that.

13 JG { 11.13.10 at 2:31 am }

Dan, I really love your blog. I have been reading it for about 6 years (and it made me decide to buy Apple stock- which made me a lot of money,- so I have to thank you!) So I’m trying to get over my initial awkward feeling of an app store on windows. But I really don’t see it, I guess. Like the comment above says, Macs are considered to be too expensive. Having the same software on Windows will be a reason NOT to buy a Mac, instead of buying one. Subtle differences in performance aren’t going to matter (look at iTunes an safari). Well, I’m going to try a little longer to try and picture this scenario, but I’m not seeing it for now.

14 gctwnl { 11.13.10 at 4:14 am }


“x86 is a bad platform too and Apple uses it like it uses QWERTY”. Firstly, Apple moved to x86 mainly because PowerPC could not keep up in terms of speed & energy usage (remember Mac Pros with 9 cooling zones and windtunnel G4 MDD?) and probably price because of volume. Apple’s OS code base is thoroughly portable across CPU architectures thanks to its NeXT heritage, hence the relative ease to mix ARM into the mix (and recall Microsoft’s failure to make NT which was born as ‘portable OS/2’ truly portable). Secondly, the story about QWERTY being bad, I recall, is an urban legend.

[PowerPC had a lot of potential that was not realized due to the lack of economies of scale. It was ahead of Intel x86 several times, and particularly during the era of Pentium IV, where Intel was only worried about clock speeds and not performance nor even efficiency. It was the entirely new, start over again Core era where Intel’s products began looking much better than anything PowerPC was going to deliver. And that was largely because PowerPC was sidetracked with creating chips for cars and the PS3/Xbox/Wii. Apple simply wasn’t selling enough to maintain the attention of the PowerPC makers.

Apple retained CPU portability while developing Mac OS X (as a hedge to move to Intel at some point if it began to make sense, which it did in 2005), but appears to have dropped any efforts to retain OS portability of the Cocoa frameworks, which moved from highly portable in the late 90s to rather well stitched into Mac OS X and Carbon over the last decade. However, recent moves by Apple indicate an ability to deliver versions of “pure Cocoa” that can not only shift to new CPUs (like the ARM iPhone), but could also be translated to an OS independent layer.

And really, Apple could just create a “YellowBox” on Windows that ran a virtualized subset of Mac OS X natively, just to bring Cocoa App Store titles to Windows. Further integrating this into a development layer that worked on top of Windows wouldn’t be that difficult, were Apple to decide that it made sense.

Considering the relative immaturity of Flex/AIR, Silverlight and the failure of Java, WinCocoa wouldn’t exactly be facing difficult competition. – Dan ]

15 macpeter { 11.13.10 at 6:47 am }

Hi Daniel,

usually I follow your analysis but this time I totally disagree with you. Yes, Apple will open another AppStore in summer 2011, but they will never offer native Windows Apps, they will offer WebApps based on the HTML 5 framework Sproutcore. WebApps will run on every HTML 5 capable browser, but they should run best on Safari 6, because this version will feature support for WebKit 2, so each WebApp will run in its own separate process. SproutCore will be integrated right into XCode 4, so you have whole matrix of choices to compile your source code either to MacOS (X86), to iOS (ARM) or to webbased Sproutcore HTML 5 either with Desktop/Mouse Interface or with Touchinterface for 3.5 and 9.7 inch displays. The browser will be the door to the windows world, but with this approach Apple could adress every internet connected device on earth so XCode 4 will rise to the most attractive development envirement, but they also make sure, that all apps will only run native on Mac hardware. So you have both – maximum compatibily for XCode Apps and maximum performance for Mac hardware. This is the true win-win strategy for cocoa developement and at the same time the end of Windows platform domination.

[Web apps don’t offer any sort of App Store business model because they run in any browser, not on top of a specific runtime like Cocoa apps. Web developers will need to accommodate for differences in HTML5 between the browsers, and there’s no way to charge for those apps apart from the subscription/ad experiments that have largely failed to monazite the web very well outside of a few top sites.

Also, because Apple doesn’t control everyone else’s browser, it can’t add features to HTML5 nearly as quickly as it can to Cocoa. Further, adding much hardware sophistication to the web results in a security issue, as the web is inherently insecure, and constantly under threat. You can easily pretend to be something else on the web. You can’t really do that with native apps being sold through a curated App Store. – Dan ]

16 SkyTree { 11.13.10 at 7:55 am }


Excellent as your suggestion is, there is no guarantee that Apple will actually follow it. However, one point I did not see in the original article that you brought up later in the comments was that Apple’s App Store apps are “cheap”, “cheap” meaning “low cost”, but not “low quality”.

“Convert PC users from running a few expensive, probably stolen apps on Windows to running lots of cheap App Store titles.”

One thing I was surprised about with iPad apps was that you can get a (Microsoft-equivalent) office suite for $30, when Microsoft Office on the desktop costs more like $300. That’s $10 each for 3 apps, so if you don’t need all 3 you don’t need to pay for them. Games as well were a few dollars each rather than a few tens of dollars. Plus, compared with desktop apps, you can be reasonably certain they will work as advertised and not compromise your system. So iPhone and iPad users are becoming accustomed to the reliability and low cost of app store downloads compared to conventional Mac or Windows software.

As I understand it, part of the reason the iTunes App Store software is so cheap is that it allows developers to concentrate on producing the software and let Apple take care of the distribution. More important perhaps is that this removes piracy from the equation. Of course, online software sales also remove the need for boxes, manuals and optical disks, which reduces the costs and also takes care of the planet.

On the desktop, I am sure most Windows users expect any software they can download to be cheap (or free) but not reliable. They also know that essential productivity software, such as Microsoft Office, is not cheap, is not downloadable and has reliability problems, while any alternative may be cheaper but may have problems. Those problems range from minor incompatibilities to viruses and other malware.

If Apple can deliver an App Store for Windows that users can trust to deliver low-cost but reliable apps, I am sure it will be successful. However, Apple must first deliver an App Store for Mac OS X that delivers low-cost, reliable apps,

Getting computer users to become accustomed to software as a $10 casual purchase rather than a $1,000 business decision or an illegal download will benefit all PC platforms.

17 rgrant { 11.13.10 at 7:57 am }

Windows is dying and thus is not where the puck is going to be. Apple is pushing it’s platforms as the future. It wants the Mac and the iOS devices to be the future and thus is promoting the ease of development across all its devices (especially when you know Cocoa). There is no way they will release a Windows App Store. You seem to be forgetting all the underlying layers that support app development. Quartz, CoreAudio, etc. these are all missing on Windows.

[Apple wouldn’t be targeting Windows to be “where the puck will be,” but rather to be scraping all those customers off of Win32 and onto Cocoa, where they can be transitioned to new form factors and architectures. You could also say that the 2002 iPod shouldn’t target cheap flash RAM devices, because the puck is going toward larger storage, but the Mini/Nano targeted the broad market. Windows definitely is where the puck “is” and will be for years. Macs are not going to outsell Windows PCs anytime this decade.

As for missing technologies: Apple can port as much as it needs to, omit anything it cares to, and simply translate calls to native Windows APIs in cases where that makes sense. There is no problem in doing this. YellowBox already existed for NT, and that was a) before PCs had as much fancy hardware as they now have and b) at a time when NeXT/Apple had to license Display PostScript to make it work. If anything, it should be easier now. – Dan ]

As far as iTunes, Safari and Quicktime are concerned:

iTunes on Windows helped to sell more iPods (and now iPhones and iPads) which are a big part of Apple’s future.

Safari on Windows helped to promote Web Kit (which advanced web standards and helps to kill IE or at least demote it to a second tier) Apple needs web standards in order to compete in the Cloud – which it definitely is thinking about seriously.

QuickTime on Windows predates Steve Jobs and was seen as a defensive move in the wild west days of web video. It’s not really needed any more because of HTML 5 video – so it will probably die a death soon.

[Actually QuickTime is just a brand name that Apple applies to whatever code it uses to render or edit time-based media. QuickTime pre-6/7/X are all pretty different internally, and it doesn’t matter. It’s not going away; it’s the brand Apple uses to sell media playback, not some special codebase from 1991 as many people seem to think.]

Windows is old news – Apple is about taking advantage of new waves of technology – leveraging the current landscape when it serves their future plans.

They have no interest in turning Windows into a healthy platform.

[That’s not the goal. The goal is replacing Win32/Silverlight, Flash/Flex/Air and Java with Cocoa, at least in the realm of desktop apps that can be sold via the store. That’s a powerful market with incredible potential. And it leverages/supports iOS and Mac development. – Dan]

18 John E { 11.13.10 at 10:03 am }

no, Dan, for desktop cocoa applications this is just too complicated as a “go to market” strategy. but even more, it is backward looking, focusing on desktop OS’s/applications just when their era is at the beginning of its phase out over this decade. the heavy and complex desktop OS era that dominated the last two decades (having supplanted the prior mainframe era) is now beginning to morph into the light and simplified portable OS everywhere next era. as disruptively revolutionized by iOS of course, and the Android copycat.

[I’d say iOS apps are light because they need to be, not because the future will lack sophisticated software. Mac App Store titles are likely to be on the simpler side of games and utilities, but I can’t think of anything that would be inappropriately large to sell through it, apart from games that ship with DVDs full of cut-scene movies. What desktop apps are going to need to simplify to reach the Mac App Store?

Portable and lightweight are only synonyms in the hardware world. You can have very complex software that is processor and OS agnostic, as NeXT demonstrated back in the early 90s – Dan]

so what would make strategic sense is enabling iOS apps to run on desktops, both Mac and PC. then instead of having 10% or so of the last era’s OS market, Apple could very possibly wind up with 25%+ of the next era’s, even tho it will be much more fragmented overall with multiple OS’s.

technically, this is some kind of variation on your idea, and even better, iTunes already contains such an app store for PC’s. it’s ready to go! but the iOS apps would need to run without modifications on both.

[Running iOS apps on Windows wouldn’t be very valuable. PCs aren’t lacking for simplistic games that play in a small window and desk accessory apps. But if Apple could enable a bunch of small Mac developers to target Windows users with the same code they’ve already written, and sell their apps securely for $5-10, their market would explode, and the value of writing Cocoa software would skyrocket, with Apple taking a sustainable cut to keep the program up to date and properly maintained. – Dan ]

this would also revolutionize the stagnant desktop application world. instead of being dominated by expensive omnibus application suites as now, a new generation of much cheaper focused function apps with simplified UI’s would come to market for the majority of users who don’t need all those bells and whistles.

if this is the long term direction Apple is really headed in, then we should first see Lion add the ability to run iOS apps on Macs. and it would be announced at WWDC in two months. taking it to Windows might follow in 2012.

[Porting iOS apps to Windows or the Mac would be a significant amount of work (ARM emulation of touchscreen apps on a x86 computer designed to use a mouse? no good) with little payoff, as there would not be massive demand for those kind of apps. However, porting Cocoa to Windows, while certainly not trivial, offers far more payoff, for Apple, developers and users. – Dan]

19 The Mad Hatter { 11.13.10 at 10:21 am }

Fascinating. Everyone, including Dan, has missed the main point, so I thought I’d tell you all about it, but when it hit 1000 words, I moved it to my blog.


20 berult { 11.13.10 at 11:07 am }

I won’t argue on technical merit. I can’t do it with enough authority. You’ve stated your case, and based on past analysis and prognosis performance alone, I’ll take your logical pathway as being coherent, somehow refreshingly, intuitively so, and therefore as a given.

I despise Microsoft’s business model. Not so much for what it now is, but for how it came to be. And the products it offers have taken the curvature and the aura of a fouled and, literally and figuratively, virus infected evolution. It deserves, as does its whole stable of exhausted five-legged work horses, a self-inflicted slide into oblivion.

And yet…

It makes sense. Correct with high yield benevolent infusion the criteria for end-of-cycle business model determination; expend quality user experience into “farted” territory; make the overall and border-free computing experience a little, …a lot less smelly. A maturing iOS\OSX Platform has garnered enough self-assurance and core robustness to evolve outside its seemingly natural confine, and to redefine, on terms of its bountiful precedents, the concept of fair competition.

If Apple believes in its Business Model as fervently as its clientele does, they will purport to emulate the common practice of cross-platform experimentation. And make it Platform deep and Platform wide, withstanding Microsoft feeble systemic resistance to viral intrusion. I suppose we could extrapolate into Google “do no “transparent” evil” territory, …but that’s for another day. 

A challenge it is, a bold move it would be, a leveraging of freshly grounded ideas for lifting a moribund out of life-abating delinquency. And for Apple, Platform expension into well charted and heavily farted Territory trades off life-sustaining, quasi-charitable enmity for profit’s wholly perfumed corollary. A business model is no charitable entity, ask Microsoft to story-tell their fantom Journey…

21 jazzmic { 11.13.10 at 1:40 pm }

It might be late, but here it goes.

First of all I love the idea. What matters to me the most is the things I can do, not the software/hardware. If I can have my apps in a Windows enviroment, something that still happens to me, even if I don’t want to, I’ll be really happy. This is user experience and branding.

It is obviously selling too, to a huge market actually. It’s not just a strategic move like itunes and safari. It can port all of the apps really easy. And will definitely win money. Probably enough to reduce the margin on the hardware side, making it even a more tempting decision. Far fetched? Maybe, but it’s conceivable.

By the way, I believe that xcode will be ported. As Dan said, why leave all this to Java and other environments? It’s a perfect way to increase user base and even earn money with it.

What will happen with hardware is that apple will keep evolving and will set the pace, like it’s doing with the iPhone and the iPad in their respective areas. An OS for that matter.

What I don’t see is how Microsoft is gonna allow this.

22 macpeter { 11.13.10 at 2:15 pm }

[Web apps don’t offer any sort of App Store business model because they run in any browser, not on top of a specific runtime like Cocoa apps. Web developers will need to accommodate for differences in HTML5 between the browsers, and there’s no way to charge for those apps apart from the subscription/ad experiments that have largely failed to monazite the web very well outside of a few top sites.]

WebApps need a host on the server side and this is where apple business modell will starting to play. Every Apple WebApp will only work with a MobileMe account which will provide seamless data synchronisation between all user devices. Apple will stay with 99 Dollars per year but will offer much more value and features. Multiply this with the size of the serverfarm in North Coralina and you got plenty of business potential.

[Also, because Apple doesn’t control everyone else’s browser, it can’t add features to HTML5 nearly as quickly as it can to Cocoa. Further, adding much hardware sophistication to the web results in a security issue, as the web is inherently insecure, and constantly under threat. You can easily pretend to be something else on the web. You can’t really do that with native apps being sold through a curated App Store. – Dan ]

Apple has absolutely no interest to develop a fully featured version of iLife or one of the “Pro Apps” for Windows, because these are the USP for Mac devices. They only need “Viewer Apps” like iPhoto web gallery, so it is possible to show your Mac- and iOS stuff also on Windows maschines.
But a fully featured Web version of iWorks would be possible even without elaborated frameworks, and also most of those little Apps in iOS, which make this platform so successful. And if Apple could control the server side of Webapps, they should also be able to manage security and all the other possible problems with this kind of software distribution.

23 big_iron { 11.13.10 at 3:15 pm }

I think you nailed this one. Apple has already inhaled the profits from high-end PC, smartphone and MP3 player sales, but they could unleash an enormous new market by providing developers with a highly profitable, cross-platform development model _and_ a business model that attracts software consumers (which just happens to run better on Apple hardware).

24 John E { 11.13.10 at 4:40 pm }

@ Dan, thanks for the thoughtful reply. to wit:

[I’d say iOS apps are light because they need to be, not because the future will lack sophisticated software. Mac App Store titles are likely to be on the simpler side of games and utilities, but I can’t think of anything that would be inappropriately large to sell through it, apart from games that ship with DVDs full of cut-scene movies. What desktop apps are going to need to simplify to reach the Mac App Store?

Portable and lightweight are only synonyms in the hardware world. You can have very complex software that is processor and OS agnostic, as NeXT demonstrated back in the early 90s – Dan]

i mean portable and lightweight from the user perspective, not the technical. portable = works on everything i got from smartphone to desktop. lightweight = one click install with very few preferences, settings, etc. to fuss with. i.e., for dummies.

as to desktop application suites that need breaking up into simpler and cheaper apps, i’ll just list the ones i use and know: MS Office, Adobe Illustrator, and Toast. i have to use them for some good reason. all cost a lot, but i use less than 5% of the features of any of them. i’m sure there are many, many more.

[Running iOS apps on Windows wouldn’t be very valuable. PCs aren’t lacking for simplistic games that play in a small window and desk accessory apps. But if Apple could enable a bunch of small Mac developers to target Windows users with the same code they’ve already written, and sell their apps securely for $5-10, their market would explode, and the value of writing Cocoa software would skyrocket, with Apple taking a sustainable cut to keep the program up to date and properly maintained. – Dan ]

the purpose of running iOS apps on PC’s would be to thereby enable even PC’s to be a full part of the rapidly expanding Apple iOS ecosystem – the heart of Apple’s consumer products future. iTunes was of course the first step in this “works on PC” direction – and that lead to the dominance of the iPod. same idea here. and iOS developers would be extremely happy to see a new wave of sales for their existing iOS apps to people who don’t even own iOS devices yet without any more work at all! it would feed a virtuous circle of expanding iOS product sales.

[Porting iOS apps to Windows or the Mac would be a significant amount of work (ARM emulation of touchscreen apps on a x86 computer designed to use a mouse? no good) with little payoff, as there would not be massive demand for those kind of apps. However, porting Cocoa to Windows, while certainly not trivial, offers far more payoff, for Apple, developers and users. – Dan]

either way requires some sophisticated work, but it’s certainly do-able by Apple. a PC version of the Magic Trackpad can certainly be manufactured. Apple already built the iOS Mac SDK emulator, so much of the work is done.

Dan, your concept strikes me as a lot like Google’s mistake in launching a Chrome OS that will compete with rather than extend its successful Android OS. the result can only be confusion in the marketplace about both and where they are going. Apple’s iOS and its apps are a huge success, and Apple’s focus needs to be on consolidating that by making them ubiquitous – like it did with iTunes.

[Android and Chrome OS actually compete against each other, one being Java-like and the other being HTML. Cocoa for Windows would compete with alternative ways to develop apps for Windows, and expand the market for Cocoa app developers. I’m not recommending that Apple sell Window PCs. -Dan

25 brew57 { 11.13.10 at 8:13 pm }

>>[Only stupid people hate “taxes,” as they don’t understand their purpose. When a democratically

Only flaming liberals are stupid people.

[Only a feeble minded idiot would attack another person’s ideas by hurling insulting names at a stereotype of identity based on tired notions because they’re unable to articulate what they think is wrong with that person’s position or recommend what they perceive to be a better idea. – Dan]

26 HCE { 11.14.10 at 2:06 am }

One minor correction

Daniel, you write

> This paved the way for WebKit to become the most popular browser
> engine on mobile devices, although Apple’s hardware essentially
> made that happen on its own.

Well, Apple hardly got WebKit to become the dominent Mobile rendering engine “on its own.” Please note that whatever you may think of Android, more smartphones with that OS are sold than iPhones. They are a large part of WebKit’s dominance. Also, the first company to bring WebKit to smartphones wasn’t Apple – it was Nokia. Remember, Symbian S60 is still the world’s largest smartphone platform – and has been for a while. It has been using WebKit for quite some time.


27 Vanillacide { 11.14.10 at 2:07 am }

Dan, interesting idea and I can see this happening. There’s a good precedent that you should have mentioned: Steam from Valve.

Steam is one of the world’s most successful content delivery platforms, delivering full-blown games to 30-million active accounts on Windows and Mac.

Steam is loved by users because of it’s fair DRM, you can download and install as many times and on as many computers as you like but you’re only allowed to be logged in once. This extends to Mac / PC too, so if you buy Mac version you can download PC version for free and vice versa.

Apple would do well to follow Steam’s lead here, so if you buy iWork on Mac you get the PC version for free; although considering the iPad versions, I imagine Apple would charge for cross-platform versions.

28 edlewis { 11.14.10 at 7:28 am }

Genius, pure genius.

The potential gains for apple from such a move simply boggle the mind. The only thing that almost amazes me just as much is the lack of vision of the other commenters.

I’m a developer myself and while i tend to to all my personal stuff in cocoa, my work needs to be cross platform and therefore i’m stuck with java. I know so many people who would love to switch but are stuck with windows because of a specific piece of software that is windows only.

Cocoa as a cross platform API give developers a truly viable cross platform environment which could only mean more software that works on PC’s and Mac’s, which means more software for Mac’s, which makes the mac viable for more people, which means more mac sales.

29 SkyTree { 11.14.10 at 9:09 am }

Mad Hatter at http://madhatter.ca/2010/11/13/if-apple-releases-an-app-store-for-windows-it-can-only-be-to-kill-microsoft/ posts his/her reply to his/her own website entitled “If Apple Releases An App Store For Windows, It Can Only Be To Kill Microsoft”.

To summarize, the conclusion is that Apple or others will make better products than Microsoft, and that in order to survive, Microsoft has to kill these challengers to its software monopoly.

Madhatter may be right, but I see no sign that either Apple or Microsoft see it in those terms. Remember, both Apple and Microsoft grew up when IBM was the undisputed ruler of the computer world. IBM is still around, it does not rule as much as before, but it has used its position to define an area where it can remain in business.

Although Dan has come out recently with the idea of an iTunes “Mac OS X Server Store” to sell server software to the IT back office, I suspect the idea of an Apple “Windows App Store” is geared directly to consumers. There is a clear trend that, while business may remain tied to Windows software and servers, using a Windows desktop PC at work and a Mac at home is becoming the norm for many. If Apple ever does follow Dan’s suggestion and set up such a store, it will be part of Apple’s ongoing efforts to ease the transition for many users of old Windows PC’s onto their new Macs.

As that happens, I believe that, like IBM, Microsoft will gradually accept its lack of influence and use its position to define an area where it can remain in business. That area is, of course, “business”. Most of the world’s global corporations are tied to Microsoft’s software, so why has Microsoft put so much effort into improving computer gamers’ experience, expanding into search and the cloud for individuals, when what is really needed is concentration on the experience for “business” and both desktop and back-end users?

Sooner or later, Microsoft should realise that there are not one but three empires, technology for the datacentre, technology for business and technology for the consumer. IBM gave up the three-ring circus a long time ago and Apple set out to provide technology for the consumer before Microsoft even existed. Microsoft may or may not believe that killing the competition is a better strategy than improving your own products, but if the competition somehow survives and your own products do not compete, what else is left?

30 Alan { 11.14.10 at 9:28 am }

Apple does not have a great reputation for software amongst Windows users for their currently ported programs. Granted, my opinion is just anecdotal, but I think you would be hard pressed to find many people who really enjoy using iTunes on Windows. Even on OS X, iTunes has become bloated and confusing, but at least it works (mostly) iTunes on Windows is simply not as good as the Mac version. Safari was also not well received, though Chrome with Webkit is doing well. Most people on Windows don’t have a clue what quicktime is except it is installed along with iTunes. If Apple were to ever implement your idea and have any hope of success, I think they would need to really work hard to get their existing Windows apps working correctly or be better perceived. iTunes is simply trying to do too much. music, apps, syncing, videos, radio, podcasts, books…it is just too unwieldy and bloated. Maybe the answer is to divide it into a suite of apps like iworks or ilife with libraries that can access the other programs makes more sense. I also think Apple will have their hands full and spend at least a year or two testing and tweaking the OS X app store to get it running properly before they would dare tackle a project as massive as the one you describe. I just don’t see Apple want to go this route though simply because it is too far from their DNA. They like to control the whole widget in terms of hardware and software. With the iPhone/iPad & app store as well as the Mac and OS X app store, they will have total control. with a Windows store, they would not be in full control. There are probably any number of ways Microsoft could sabotage this effort. It could also be a PR nightmare if there is enough backlash from Windows developers. It could backfire and force Microsoft to open up a similar type store which would certainly be more successful since it is their platform after all. Apple is doing quite well selling their own gidgets, I don’t see them branching out to Windows land anytime soon.

If they really wanted to give Windows users a taste of OS X and hopefully entice them to buy an actual Mac the next time around, what they should do is partner with VMware or Parallels and allow OS X to run in a virtual environment on a Windows PC. I still think allowing OS X to run natively is a bad idea because if that were possible even I would build my own killer home built Mac Pro instead of paying the insane prices Apple charges and save around $1,700 for similar performance. Why do they insist on the Xeon only and not offer a Core i7 model? Anyway, a virtual OS X environment would work well because it would allow reluctant buyers to get their feet wet and at least see what OS X is all about. Then when their PC is on its last legs and it is time to buy a new computer, they might be more likely to go with a Mac.

31 JG { 11.14.10 at 10:25 am }

Calling iTunes bloated is an argument I keep hearing again and again but that doesn’t make sense for the normal user. To me, it’s a great piece of software. You have to be pretty geeky (from the average user’s viewing point) to complain about it ‘doing to much’. iTunes on windows made me look at the mac years ago, and it’s part of the reason I switched. Not because it sucked, but because it was the best software I ever used. I have read some interesting comments, that sort of make Dan’s theory easier to understand. But I still don’t see if eg Apple would also make a cross-platform version of iWork/iLife, and how that would benefit Mac sales. I remember from years ago when I still used windows, iLife was a major reason to switch, since nothing similar was available on windows.

32 John E { 11.14.10 at 11:00 am }

just to note, for iOS Apple broke up iTunes into four separate ‘lightweight’ simplified apps – iPod, Video, App Store , and iTunes (store). they’re integrated underneath of course. if these apps could run on my desktop Mac, i’d use them instead of desktop iTunes 90% of the time because they are quick, focused, and easy. i’d just use desktop iTunes for things like editing metadata, importing, setting up lists, etc.

33 Mike { 11.14.10 at 3:46 pm }

This would be a bigger challenge than Microsoft trying to build their own app store IMHO. Actually, it’s not a bad idea that Apple would create a App Store for Windows, but let’s face it, Apple doesn’t profit from the standardization of Cocoa. If they did, they would’ve brought it cross-platform, offering App Store for Android already. By the same token, they wouldn’t do something similar for Windows, because that means Mac apps aren’t that much more different than their Windows counterparts… it would remove the large differences in appearance and features that Mac apps enjoy and place them on Windows, where they would be sold in mass quantity, but have much less value to selling Macs. You do make a good point that Macs aren’t a small player anymore and that Apple could venture into the software business to sell third party apps cross-platform. The question is, is it willing to?

While Macs are growing at an enormous pace, I’m not entirely certain that if you give Windows Mac-looking apps through an App Store that the Mac sales won’t be somewhat cannibalized by software sales on Windows. And what benefits does Apple gain besides making iWork more cross-platform? I can see them bringing iWork to Windows even without an App Store.

The benefits of bringing iWork to Windows would be really great. Just imagine, finally, a proper competitor to Microsoft Office, but cheaper and better! And now available on Windows. But they don’t need to have an App store to do that.

The PRIMARY reason I bought a Mac was because of its apps. And I know quite a few people that feel the same way. So I’m sorry if I don’t completely believe the logic that not having exclusive Mac apps helps sell the hardware. You even said so yourself some years back.

The other problem is how cross-platform apps suck. They just don’t feel native, and Windows apps are really the worst offender. There IS no native UI, even Microsoft itself deviates from “native” UI, with inconsistencies like transparencies, differently shaped buttons, the ribbon interface, etc. So for Apple to give Windows a “native” UI that Microsoft itself hasn’t been able to do and make it work well and look like a Windows app is a momental task that I doubt anyone can take on, even Apple.

34 The Mad Hatter { 11.14.10 at 6:37 pm }


To summarize, the conclusion is that Apple or others will make better products than Microsoft, and that in order to survive, Microsoft has to kill these challengers to its software monopoly.

You misread it. The conclusion is that Microsoft is, and has always been incompetent at software development. The only way it has managed to get to gain it’s overwhelming market share was by cheating.

Microsoft is unable to compete, therefore it’s only option is to kill the competition before it can damage Microsoft. Like what they did with Netscape.

Apple is now a bigger threat to Microsoft than Netscape ever was. If Microsoft doesn’t kill Apple, Microsoft will die. Microsoft’s business model depends upon consumers not having a choice. Apple offers a choice.

35 brew57 { 11.14.10 at 9:11 pm }

>>[Only stupid people hate “taxes,” as they don’t understand their purpose…DED

>>[Only a feeble minded idiot would attack another person’s ideas by hurling insulting names at a stereotype of identity based on tired notions because they’re unable to articulate what they think is wrong with that person’s position or recommend what they perceive to be a better idea. – Dan]

Pot calling a kettle black?

36 cadillac88 { 11.14.10 at 10:29 pm }

Looking at MS’s top and bottom lines I would have to think Apple sees opportunity there. Apple wouldn’t do a second App store for the Mac if they thought it was just luck. It sure would be nice to round up a few of MS’s Developers that work in the Enterprise space and put them to work on Cocoa Apps that could work on both Windows and Macs. That would be a big opening into a huge market that Mac really don’t have much of a chance in otherwise. Sure, some companies might be letting Macs in the door but not for really serious work. I don’t think Macs are well connected to SAP or PeopleSoft. Notice how fast iPads and iPhones got connected with their easy to use SDK? Collaborative Computing is just waiting for hundreds of new Apps in one of Apple’s, MS’s, or Googles clouds. If you don’t have access to the Windows desktop though, you might as well hang up your hat. Its not too late yet to make a push for it Apple needs a foot in the Enterprise door. This could be it. I don’t think Windows consumers buy much software. IMHO the Windows Consumer pockets might actually be harder to reach than Windows Enterprise. And there the debate falls most cogent as a must have rather than, too risky so let’s forget about it.

37 marsviolet { 11.14.10 at 11:04 pm }

Pot calling a kettle black?

Actually, no. It is indeed stupid to hate something you don’t understand. And it is truly feeble minded to insult rather than articulate. Dan has well-proven his ability to articulate.

Any other questions?

38 Charles L { 11.15.10 at 12:15 am }

I’d like to write more but short on time, so just a quick question.

I’m not familiar with YellowBox. Is there a good reason to assume that if Cocoa were ported to Windows that applications written using that library would act more native than say a QT app? I agree with most of what you wrote but a lot of it depends on Cocoa. If the apps don’t feel native in Windows I can’t really see this taking off.

39 JG { 11.15.10 at 12:32 am }

But won’t the app store on the mac just make the software advantage of the mac a lot greater? I think it’s going to be huge and an incredible differentiator with windows. Think about it, finally software that is easy to install and manage. All new mac users I see have their desktops filled with .dmg’s that they don’t know how to use… It would further position the mac as the easy to use, human-friendly computer. Could someone tell me why it would be a good idea for Apple to offer such a great idea to windows?

40 beetle { 11.15.10 at 6:26 am }

Very interesting prognostication! Dan, do you feel you are intuiting Apple’s plans — or are you giving them free advice?

I am a longtime fan, but I have been amazed by Apple’s repeated ability to dominate (what to me, seemed to be) mature crowded markets: mp3 players, smart phones, net books. As Dan points out, cross-platform apps (at least from a consumer perspective) have been a disappointment for twenty years (longer?) and neither Java nor Flash has done anything to reverse that trend. This opportunity seems a little subtle for Apple’s tastes, but I can also see how it ties into AppleTV, so I think Dan is onto something, but it could be a few years.

41 SkyTree { 11.15.10 at 6:53 am }

The Mad Hatter { 11.14.10 at 6:37 pm }
“To summarize, the conclusion is that ….. Microsoft has to kill these challengers to its software monopoly.

“You misread it. The conclusion is that Microsoft is … incompetent …. The only way it has managed ….. was by cheating …. its only option is to kill the competition before it can damage Microsoft. If Microsoft doesn’t kill Apple, Microsoft will die ….. ”

Which is, I think, pretty much the same thing. The only difference is that, if Microsoft fails at monopolising the entire computing experience from MP3 player to datacentre, which now looks likely, then you think it will be unable to take advantage of an IBM-sized niche because of that core incompetence.

As far as consumer-facing products are concerned, I believe you are right.

But I believe there is a niche, in between Apple at home and IBM and others in the datacentre, where Microsoft can remain competent, and that is inside large global, particularly US-based, corporations. I have seen the inside of such beasts enough to know that the inertia from the days of Microsoft’s unbridled monopoly, and the commercial importance of numerous custom-written “legacy” applications, will keep Microsoft afloat for many years to come.

Of course, the user experience for desk workers in such corporations is as bad as you would expect, but that is not a priority. Even a few years ago, corporate drones would never admit that at home they had a Mac. Now it is almost the accepted norm. And here’s where Dan’s tea-leaf gazing becomes interesting, it is also now the norm for executives to carry an iPad. Even in the most Windows-centric companies. IT workers are facing the challenge of installing ubiquitous but secure WiFi routers onto the corporate networks to meet these executive requirements for iPad connectivity.

Microsoft cannot “kill Apple” and continue to support these core customers. So whatever the posturing, Microsoft and Apple will continue working together, and the sooner Microsoft realises it is “Windows Everywhere” that has already been killed, and works on improving the “business bits” it does best, the more Apple can help.

Of course, all we know for sure right now is that Apple is preparing an App Store for Mac OS desktop. Its further extension into either the X-Serve field or the Windows desktop are pure speculation by Dan the Man.

But let’s assume he’s right. What can an App Store for Mac OS desktop offer Windows users? For starters, an easier way to get the latest Safari, iTunes or QuickTime download along with some music or video. Then there are mobile iOS apps that need a desktop component available for Mac or Windows. After that, developers who have a Mac app may want to promote a Windows version. They can do so already, but the App Store makes it simpler and, for the first time on a desktop, safer. Also, with easily-downloaded low-cost apps rather than expensive, packaged bundles, cheaper. And, if you have to pay, with your credit card already online at iTunes, convenient.

We know that Windows users place a high value on cheap. If Windows users learn to trust that safety that comes from buying Windows software from Apple, that may well be enough to tame instead of killing the Beast of Redmond.

42 tonytrout { 11.15.10 at 11:24 am }

I agree with Ashr on all counts. Apple doesn’t need exposure in the Windows world any more.

The Mac App Store is meant to sell Macs. Here’s what I’m excited about these days: The Mac App Store will make it easy to develop integrated desktop and mobile solutions for businesses: medicine, real estate, retail, restaurants, etc., etc. Any business that has a mobile component, or merely a walking-around component must currently integrate separate platforms for each mode (Windows and then RIM, or even Mac and then iOS).

Mac App Store / iOS App Store will solve that. Developers will be able to create end-to-end solutions on essentially a single platform. And since there are an extremely limited number of Apple hardware products, if you create a solution, you can be confident it will actually work. Currently, the last 100 feet of an integrated solution (hardware compatibility, networking, etc.) is the hardest part. That will be automatic within the Apple ecosystem.

Example: Doctor’s Office
You receive an automatic email reminder in the morning telling you that appointments are running 1/2 hour late. When you arrive, the receptionist checks off your name on a Mac App Store desktop scheduling app. He/she then pulls up your medical records from another app to see if you need to update a form. If you have an iPhone, you can download the free Patient app and update the record it electronically, otherwise, you’re handed an iPad. You’re lead into the visiting room. The doctor has your medical records on an iPad, and records blood pressure, temperature, etc. in an app. The doctor writes a prescription, sending it electronically to your pharmacy. Information about the drug and your condition are immediately available on your Patient app, or emailed to you if you don’t have an iPhone.

This will all come together in the next year. And because this will be a lucrative business, there will be many alternate versions of these business solutions on the Mac App Store.

43 tundraboy { 11.15.10 at 2:04 pm }

I’m no tech head and I won’t pretend to be one. All I’ll say is if this means Quicken for Mac (the world’s crappiest Mac app) will achieve full parity with Quicken for Windows then I’m all for it.

44 zanjero { 11.16.10 at 6:16 am }

Hi Dan,
inspirational read (as usual). So inspirational, in fact, that I wrote a long artice myself on the topic (it is in German, sorry; http://www.zanjero.de/2010/ein-app-store-fur-computer/). It is based on your assumptions, but in a way widening the perspective and the argumentation. In short: I totally agree with your argument, that Apple has lots to gain and little to lose in starting an app-store for windows.

45 Brian Willoughby { 11.19.10 at 5:02 am }

Great article! Perhaps all of your predictions will not come true, but you have an impressive list of facts and a solid technical base for your arguments.

46 gctwnl { 11.21.10 at 7:02 am }


You write: “Considering the relative immaturity of Flex/AIR, Silverlight and the failure of Java, WinCocoa wouldn’t exactly be facing difficult competition”

But wouldn’t that just turn Cocoa in yet-another-portable-development-environment? Isn’t that at least in direct conflict with Apple’s (SJ) statement that these portable environments never deliver the best integration?

47 Brian Willoughby { 11.21.10 at 6:12 pm }

Interesting point. I think that Cocoa as a PDE would only suffer at delivering good Windows integration, and perhaps SJ doesn’t really care about that. Cocoa is the only thing that delivers what SJ wants in terms of Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad integration – I don’t see how running on Windows would change the experience for OSX or iOS in the least.

48 hrissan { 11.22.10 at 2:02 am }

Dan, Cocoa itself may be good, but it is held back by the fact it is written in ancient Objective-C language. In comparison with modern languages like Java or .Net family it looks like a rotted dinosaur from the past. It lacks strong typing (often detecting errors in run-time instead of compile time, increasing cost of testing, inhibiting refactoring), compiles to machine language instead of intermediate layer (so you have to recompile to run on different CPU), welcomes code with security holes (on par with C), and it is slower. It is possible to write a decent app in Objective-C if you can write in C or C++, but it is impossible for those people who used to ease of Flash and Silverlight.

IMHO no developer fluent in any modern language will write in Objective-C if he or she has a choice. :)

49 gctwnl { 11.22.10 at 5:08 am }

@hrissan (flame baiting?):
I don’t know where you get your information, but Objective-C has strong typing.

Knowing C, C++, Objective-C and a little Java and C#, I must say that my personal preference is Objective-C and I like how C# has been set up better than Java. Note: Objective-C is the language, Cocoa the framework, C# is the language, .Net is the framework and for Java both the language and the framework have the same name (which obviously confuses people).

In terms of OO cleanliness, Objective-C is very good and much better than Java, which I consider a kludge here and there. There are reasons why Apple dropped Java again after trying to move to Java from Objective-C: Java just isn’t as good as Objective-C, especially with regard to dynamism in OO. The intermediate layer is unnecessary if you have multiple-architecture-binaries (‘fat’ binaries) which also are almost by definition better optimized as you have direct optimization of the compiler for the hardware backend.

PS. Here is an illustration why Java is a kludge (as it is with main())

class A {
static String foo() {
return “A”;
class B extends A {
static String foo() {
return “B”;

public class Test {
public static void main(String[] args) {
A a = new B();

A decent OO-language prints “B B”, but Java’s static methods turn this into “A B”. In other words: I have a B-object but the
method called is from superclass A. Ugh! C++-like nightmares appear.

50 Brian Willoughby { 11.22.10 at 7:43 pm }

“Ancient” is a completely irrelevant factor when evaluating a language. C and C++ are older than Objective C. Java 1 was designed before they took a look at ObjC; Java 2 borrowed heavily from ObjC concepts.

As has been pointed out already, ObjC does not lack strong typing, but rather allows it as an option. Strong typing is available whenever it is a benefit. Java suffers because certain designs cannot be implemented without casting, and once you start using casting in an object hierarchy, you lose the benefits of strong typing. I have seen large Java designs fall apart because of strong typing.

Compiling to machine code produces faster programs than using an intermediate layer, and this efficiency is crucial for battery-operated devices, and still necessary for optimum performance even on a desktop.

Objective C is actually the most modern language available today. Just because other languages came later and borrowed some concepts from ObjC does not mean those imitators are more modern. Your comments seem to have come from regurgitating flawed summaries of the language written by people who have limited knowledge.

You must log in to post a comment.