WWDC starts next week, and Apple has a developer relations problem

"This isn’t about the 30%, or the 15%... It’s about what Apple’s leadership thinks of us and our work." -- Developer Marco Arment (Tumblr, Overcast)

From "Developer relations" posted Thursday on Marco.org:

The massive profits from the hardware business are what ... truly “pay the way” of the App Store, public APIs, developer tools, and other app-development resources...

The forced App Store commissions, annual developer fees, and App Store Search Ads income are all just gravy. The “way” is already paid by the hardware — but Apple uses their position of power to double-dip.

And that’s just business. Apple’s a lot of things, and “generous” isn’t one.

But to bully and gaslight developers into thinking that we need to be kissing Apple’s feet for permitting us to add billions of dollars of value to their platform is not only greedy, stingy, and morally reprehensible, but deeply insulting.

My take: If Apple has lost Arment, I suspect it's lost a large swath of its developer community.

See the Apple 3.0 Marco Arment archives

38 Comments

  1. James Franklin Heck III said:
    I’ve been a premium user of Overcast from day 1, but Arment always seems to be whining about something.

    9
    June 3, 2021
  2. Darren Grayson said:
    He is welcome to focus 100% of his effort on Android development.

    6
    June 3, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      @Darren I wish I could upvote this 1000x. Whenever we get this whining, I want the whiner game developer to show me his public books about how much revenue, costs, profits and percentages thereof he makes on each hardware platform – iOS vs Android vs Sony PlayStation vs MIcrosoft Xbox vs Nintendo Switch vs PC Windows vs Mac.
      Let us also know how much the developer profit is compared to the roughly 25%~30% that Apple has worked so hard to achieve over time vs the likely <<20% Android makers settle for.

      Thats the whole thing with these guys – they want Apple and mobile built hardware platforms to be devalued to the level of “give it away or sell for loss” business platform of the console makers subsidized by other parts of their business. Yet the developers GLADLY PAY the same 30% app store commissions rates to the console makers.

      3
      June 4, 2021
      • Bart Yee said:
        To the whining developer – build YOUR own highly successful and somehow highly profitable mobile hardware gaming/smartphone platform and tell us how much it costs you to do that. Band 100 developers and venture capital $$$$Billions or get Tencent to foot the bill.

        Challenge the market to embrace you, run a profitable model and reap the profits BUT AFTER you spend about $25-50B in development costs for hardware and software plus ongoing $$$B annually to keep it going.

        There’s a reason why these developers have never run hardware businesses – it’s not profitable enough for them.

        2
        June 4, 2021
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    You guys beat me to it.

    Arment uses complaining as his method to get 30 SECONDS of fame. He is a sample of one. I’m sure there are others like him that publish on the App Store. His complaints make me think of him as a small person/developer that doesn’t know how to promote himself, his business, without tearing someone else down.

    5
    June 3, 2021
  4. Randy McCleary said:
    I’m not mute to Marco’s position but is it based on need or want? App developers make money yesterday, today and tomorrow. Are developers saying APPL has made enough money and now it is time for developers to increase their share? Or are the developers arguing they must make more money or will go to another delivery venue/market?

    APPL only charges for the app purchase transaction, a cost fully borne by the customer, not developer. The developer can still scale their price to capture whatever they feel needed for the app being offered. Competitive forces notwithstanding.

    Should APPL charge for tools? Charge for listing stale apps? Charge for policing apps and copy-cat efforts? Create a penalty for grey-market hidden features or overt app-store violations? Create a per-app charge for IP use, upgrades, downloads and patches? -OR- continue to charge a 30% APPL fee to actual money transactions?

    Remember, every customer that purchases something from developers pays 30%. We appear to be used to that tax, why are developers complaining?

    This so reminds me of Airlines arguing the FAA that since they pay the most fees, the US airspace, airports and routes be optimized for them. Problem is that Airlines do not pay fees, passengers pay fees directly on every ticket purchase.

    -RJ

    6
    June 3, 2021
  5. Ralph McDarmont said:
    Apple has enriched app developers beyond belief. Apple’s latest guess was developers gained $700 billion. Net. That is a significant number.

    I am not suggesting this, but what if Tim pulled the plug on developers? Where would they go? Other than broke. Why developers and politicians think the Apple ecosystem should be free is way beyond my understanding.

    16
    June 3, 2021
  6. Dan Scropos said:
    homeOS appearing in Job Listings for Apple. Hmm. This is a never before used term. I hope they elaborate.

    1
    June 3, 2021
  7. John Konopka said:
    Setting aside Marco’s comments, I think Apple could do a lot better to manage the App Store. Having seen inside a number of large companies I can imagine that it is just too easy to let things slide regarding developer relations. Putting the money issue aside, Apple could greatly improve the App Store with better transparency and better support of developers. They should have better trained reviewers who have more time for each app review. Their should be a better appeals process and there should probably be some sort of developer representative with some power to speak up for developers. The App Store is incredibly new, only a decade old, and it is incredibly important to Apple, its customers and developers. They shouldn’t let this fester.

    2
    June 3, 2021
    • Mark Visnic said:
      Is Eddie Cue responsible for App Store oversight? If he is, it can be improved.

      0
      June 4, 2021
      • From Apple Leadership: Phil Schiller is responsible for leading the App Store and Apple Events.

        I also thought it was Eddy Cue, but I was wrong.

        1
        June 4, 2021
  8. David Emery said:
    The core question: Is Arment a blogger who happens to write some apps, or an App Developer who happens to blog? (To phrase it another way, “Which is more important, clicks or sales?”)

    What I am bothered by was Tim Cook’s admission he doesn’t directly track developer satisfaction. I hope that changes.

    But then, I’m not a ‘typical app user,’ I have a relatively small number of apps on my phone, and use a relatively small number of them routinely. And many of those apps are tied to/a part of my relationship with a company that exists outside of the Apple ecosystem. (That’s particularly true right now as I’m planning a vacation, so various travel vendor/service apps are on my most-frequently-used list.)

    0
    June 3, 2021
  9. John Blackburn said:
    Your headline gave an impression of fact. This was not that.

    9
    June 3, 2021
    • John Blackburn wrote: “Your headline gave an impression of fact. This was not that.”

      Need more evidence of developer dissatisfaction? From in the Epic vs. Apple transcript:

      Judge Gonzales Rogers to Tim Cook: Let’s talk about developers. I’m seeing evidence in the record that there’s a survey of developers — I’m going to share the results of this bar graph that was presented to me. I don’t know how accurate it is, because I looked for the source document and couldn’t find it. But this survey indicated that 39 percent of developers were either very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with Apple’s distribution services. 36 percent were somewhat satisfied or very satisfied, and 19 percent didn’t go either way, they’re in the middle. So with 39 percent of all your developers dissatisfied, how is that acceptable and how is it — assuming those numbers are true — how is it that you’re feeling any motivation and incentive to address their needs?

      0
      June 4, 2021
      • Kirk DeBernardi said:
        @ PED —

        Like hearding cats and getting them to sing.

        As Daniel Epstein says later in the comments here:

        “I would be shocked if Apple didn’t have developers who complained about the rules.”

        The developer skill is one of comprehension and coding finesse (the good ones) coupled with a strong desire to hit pay dirt.

        Let’s face it — they’d probably even describe themselves as a picky bunch so who wouldn’t take an opportunity to complain about things not being perfect if given the opportunity to do so?

        Also, given most by count are small developers, maybe it’s a bit of a David & Goliath syndrome.

        1
        June 5, 2021
  10. Dave Ryder said:
    What’s a fair cut for Apple? What percentage of the end experience is Apple responsible for, and what percentage is the developer responsible for? 15% seems reasonable to me.

    0
    June 3, 2021
  11. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    (quote)
    “The forced App Store commissions, annual developer fees, and App Store Search Ads income are all just gravy. The “way” is already paid by the hardware — but Apple uses their position of power to double-dip.”

    So charging for devices AND providing an App Store should be one-in-the-same?

    (quote)
    “But to bully and gaslight developers into thinking that we need to be kissing Apple’s feet for permitting us to add billions of dollars of value to their platform is not only greedy, stingy, and morally reprehensible, but deeply insulting.”

    In particular “…we need to be kissing Apple’s feet for permitting us to add billions of dollars of value to their platform…”

    Please detail for us your kissing of Apple’s feet that, oddly, has provided your wealth.

    So what remedies your ire, Marco?

    A full and complete dissection of the innards of the App Store machine guts splayed out on the table for all to criticize and reconfigure?

    A cashbox and data-privacy exchange where Apple provides services and has little to no say in the level of income to cover such services and that service’s privacy?

    The Apple App Store “control machine” you’d like to eviscerate here is what I as a consumer desire and pay for.

    Remember, your eventual dollar-in-pocket originates at my consumer dollar out-of-pocket.

    Maybe it’s not a matter of Apple being more greedy, but you being more grateful.

    Just maybe.

    6
    June 3, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      Tim Cook said he does not directly track developer satisfaction. I believe he said, or at least strongly implied, he Does Track User Satisfaction. That tells you a lot about who Cook considers Apple’s customers are.

      5
      June 3, 2021
  12. Troy Thoman said:
    “The massive profits from the hardware business are what … truly “pay the way” of the App Store, public APIs, developer tools, and other app-development resources…

    The forced App Store commissions, annual developer fees, and App Store Search Ads income are all just gravy. The “way” is already paid by the hardware — but Apple uses their position of power to double-dip.”

    This argument makes no sense. That’s like saying that Walmart makes enough money on clothes and therefore should give me the food for free. Why should he get to decide what they use their hardware PROFITS for? It would no longer be profit, if they were forced to use that money to fund the overhead of the app store. The store is seperate from hardware and should pay for itself (seperate from hardware.)

    8
    June 3, 2021
  13. Jerry Doyle said:
    Developer Marco Arment is full of “poppy cock!” Arment comes across as a prima donna, so let’s reference him as such by calling him “Armani.”

    PED, you are overreaching by extrapolating that Armani’s ludicrous diatribe represents a Developers’ relations problem with Apple. Did Developers vote Armani as president of the Developers Union or some other association representing Developers with Apple?

    Armani says this isn’t about the 30%, or the 15%…its about what Apple’s leadership thinks of “us” (Developers) and our work. BS! Armani’s own words contradict what he purports.

    Armani goes on to write an invective against Apple (the hand that feeds him) in proportions of denunciations consisting of insulting & abusive words & expressions against the very vehicle he so eagerly attaches himself.

    “Without the apps, the iPhone has little value to most of its customers today.” BS! I have 85 apps! Not a single one of them is a “paid app.” They all are apps like Starbucks, Albertsons, Home Depot, REI, Healow, Walgreens, WebMD, TexasRoadHouse, RuthChris & a host of other national restaurants, Uber, Lyft, GEICO, BonVoy, AMEX, banks, brokerages, etc. Recognize something about those apps? They all make money by “being” on my iPhone so I can call a taxi, order coffee or food at a restaurant, check the specials in the stores while shopping, do my banking electronically which benefits the banks through reduction in tellers, initiate stock trades which benefits the brokerage houses, on & on. Not everyone plays games on their devices. I suspect every app on my phone that does not charge for their services are “tickle pink” to be on my phone to bring in more business using their apps.

    Continue….

    9
    June 3, 2021
  14. Jerry Doyle said:
    Continued…

    Apple doesn’t need Armani as much as he believes they need him. I certainly have no need of Armani & Developers’ games. I also suspect vast majorities of iPhone users are similar to me. I know none of my peers or even my daughter and her friends who play games. Yes, there are some adults who do, but I suspect they are not in the high percentages by any means. I suspect it is mostly kids & adolescents who play games on their devices.

    Armani says this “isn’t about the 30%, or the 15%” but goes on in his diatribe with every comment seemingly relating back to: REDUCED YOUR TAKE APPLE! That is right. This piss-ant has the audacity to say it is about money while every comment of his IS ALL ABOUT MONEY: “….forced App Store commissions, annual developers fees, ….”.

    “The App Store is merely one platform’s forced distribution gateway….”. Fine, Armani. Then move on to the other platforms where you feel more comfortable to do business. But you don’t move on, do you? Why not? Because you want the APPLE PLATFORM which is the “premium platform” where Developers make the most profits.

    “…. the much more common case — of searching for a specific app by name or following a link or ad based on its developer’s own marketing or reputation, … (Apple’s marketing has little to do with our apps being downloaded). Fine, Armani. Then take your marketing skills & set up your web site & market on your own.

    Continue….

    5
    June 3, 2021
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      corrected to read: it is not about money while every comment of his IS ALL ABOUT MONEY:

      3
      June 3, 2021
      • David Emery said:
        We’re seeing two competing views of the App Store, and it’s important to recognize them:

        1. From an App Store revenue perspective, purchased Apps and in particular Games are significant revenue producers for Apple (under the current terms of the App Store.)

        2. From a USER perspective, I strongly suspect the majority of use is free apps that connect the user to a company. Those create no revenue for the App Store, but are a huge part of the Apple ecosystem. And in particular, since some of those, like bank apps, are those where security is the paramount concern, security of the Apple Ecosystem is a key consideration.

        1
        June 4, 2021
        • David Emery said:
          It is a reasonable question to ask: Should Apple have a way to recover application infrastructure (XCode, App Store) costs from “free apps,” particularly those from large companies? I dunno.

          2
          June 4, 2021
  15. Jerry Doyle said:
    Continued….

    Armani, instead of writing these insulting, vehement epithets & tirades against the hand that feeds you, why don’t you think more constructively in how to be more collaborative with Apple. Get a group of elected Developers together. Ask for a meeting with Apple senior executives. Present those senior executives a plan to establish a joint Developers-Apple Management Partnership Council (DAMPC) where Developers meet quarterly with Apple App Store senior managers to present issues of concerns, suggestions & recommendations & to present grievances. The DAMPC would be an Advisory Council with the Council’s annual report going to Apple’s CEO and posted on-line for Developers’ to read. The Council would consist of ten Developers & ten Apple senior employees. The Council meets quarterly on the Apple campus with Apple paying for Developers’ travel & per diem.

    Stop your complaining Armani & reach out to establish a proper forum instead of crying out publicly like a baby.

    3
    June 3, 2021
    • Alessandro Luethi said:
      Absolutely the right way to do it! Such a developer counsel/advisory board would be a big plus for Developers, Apple and users.
      In your sometimes exuberantly long comments, dear Jerry, many gems are to be found!

      0
      June 4, 2021
  16. Gary Gouriluk said:
    What if Apple developed an option for users to convert their iPhones to an Android phone if they so desired. Android would now have almost 100% potential for the market, and would have to deal with all regulators and whiney developers, and Apple would no longer have a monopoly on iPhone customers. Apple’s customers would now have free choice to choose or not choose IOS. Now Apple can re-position their app store as accepting and denying any Apps they choose as simply options licensed by Apple from developers.
    Nobody would choose Android on an Apple phone but all this “I wanna be FREE” crap would be thrown out the window, as everyone could choose to remain within the walled garden.
    Is this a crazy idea?
    Or would this pose the danger of users fleeing Apple if Android suddenly got better, or developers went exclusive Android?

    0
    June 3, 2021
  17. Greg Lippert said:
    Reading his self-serving blog I see it is an echo chamber with nobody able to provide rebuttal. Hope he reads this blog.

    He screams it ain’t about the money when its ALL about the money.

    Agree with others here, instead of whining, start a Developer Relation Board and try to work with Apple to bring change from within.

    Take a lesson from Cook vs Trump. Tim didn’t shout his complaints from the rooftop but kept a seat at the table and worked on policy from within.

    4
    June 4, 2021
  18. Mark Visnic said:
    “At WWDC next week, these same people are going to try to tell us a different story. They’re going to tell us how amazing we are, how important our work is, and how much they value us. And for thousands of Apple employees who’ve made the great products and platforms that we love, including the hundreds of engineers presenting the sessions and working the labs, it’ll be genuine and true.”

    There, in the last paragraph is the key: “great products and platforms’ that [the developers] “love” and, apparently, Arment wants for free.

    5
    June 4, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      @Mark yep, I’ll quote it again:
      “ And for thousands of Apple employees who’ve made the great products and platforms that we love, including the hundreds of engineers presenting the sessions and working the labs, it’ll be genuine and true.”

      Let’s say 10,000 employees at avg. $100k/yr salary (+benefits and the physical infrastructure for their work mind you) = an ongoing annual expense to Apple of $1+ BILLION in employment costs alone to support the developer platform world on the software side.

      Ament himself completely devalues the annual contributions of all the Apple hardware developers, designers, engineers and other partner companies contributions to HIS bottom line by providing one of the best platforms and customer base for him to EXPLOIT.

      Ingrates. Want to drive on the private highway, there’s going to be user fees. Just like how you charge the player/gamer/user to play your F’King game.

      4
      June 4, 2021
  19. Daniel Epstein said:
    In my world I would say people complain about about their Apple products consistently even when they are heavy users. Part of it seems to be their expectations that the product will work the way they want, when they want and at a price they want. Why should developers be any different? Hard to judge if my experience is because people know I am somewhat skilled in Apple products and figure I might have a solution to their issues. Sometimes yes sometimes no. Part of Apple’s zeitgeist is making things that work without requiring the user to learn too much to do it. This usually has a price which offends some people. The happy users tend to realize it is okay to spend a little money to save time and effort. The developers for the most part like that market, want to tap it, make money from it. However friction in that goal would make them think about how they can change Apple to make it easier for themselves. I would be shocked if Apple didn’t have developers who complained about the rules. If they pull their apps from the App store and are happier I say go for it. Just don’t complain you lost money when you do it.

    2
    June 4, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      “Part of it seems to be their expectations that the product will work the way they want, when they want and at a price they want”

      I’d separate these two. Sure, we’d like perfect products for free. But at least for me (since the mid ’80s), it’s been about functionality MUCH MORE than price. Developer whining about price is a different proposition than whining about App Store curation, broken or missing APIs, bugs, etc. Now there’s some of that, too, and that’s what I’d want Apple to concentrate on fixing. I’m not a developer, but as a user I do have some items on my “should work better” list…

      0
      June 4, 2021
  20. Michael Goldfeder said:
    @Jerry Doyle: Geaux Jerry! Great posts!! His new name of Armani is so appropriate!! Lol!!

    Armani is as useless as the powdered sugar that falls off a beignet!

    0
    June 6, 2021

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