The Question

by Oliver Breidenbach

With the WWDC keynote, the obituaries for some third party apps have started. Although I do not think that suddenly having to compete with Apple is the end of the world, there is one question that keeps bothering me:

Might it be a better business model for us Mac developers to bring ideas from the Mac platform (including Apple's) to Windows than it is to create innovative apps for the Mac?

I have often observed Windows users being envious when they see how easy to use Mac apps are. We constantly get requests from Windows users for Windows versions of FotoMagico and iStopMotion although there are plenty of stop motion or slideshow apps available for Windows. Tons of Windows users want the iLife suite. Many people that see me giving presentations with Keynote wish they had something like it on their Windows machines.

There is a fairly big market there.


2006-08-09 16:53:01
As a Mac user forced into the Windows world for most of the work week I would second that! Even though the Windows world likes to brag about how many more applications they have I find it very difficult at times to find equivalent software that has the quality and thought put into development that the Mac side has. (Sometimes even when a particular title is produced in both Mac and Windows versions by the same company.) My general impression is that Mac developers tend to be more thoughtful than their Windows counterparts, especially where usability and innovation are concerned. Having better applications would make all the time I have to spend in the Windows world a lot more tolerable.
2006-08-09 17:04:06
While I agree to some extent, Windows users are *not* used to having to pay for anything unless it comes wrapped in plastic from Best Buy. I'm not saying that you can't make money from developing apps for Windows markets, but that Windows users in general aren't accustomed to high quality "independent developer" products, which is the de facto method on the Mac. It's like the difference between a shopper at K-Mart vs Target. One caters to more of the cost-conscious whereas the other is much more quality conscious.
David Young
2006-08-10 00:23:21
I dunno about bringing Mac concepts to the Windows side. I mean, isn't that what Konfabulator did? And then they... cashed out at Yahoo!. Hmm, maybe it's not such a bad idea.

Most Mac programmers I know who went Windows either were not very good Mac programmers originally, or lately are very depressed.

2006-08-10 01:14:26

The thing is, with the Mac market it's much easier to be a big fish, although the pond is admittedly quite small; but with the Windows market you're much more likely to end up as a minnow in the wide open ocean. Even if anyone even notices you at all, you run the risk of someone bigger just squashing you out of existence.

As for 'bringing ideas from the Mac to windows' - am I to assume from that proposition that you're advocating copying / ripping off ideas ? There are laws that prevent this kind of thing for hardware products - I don't see why software should be any different. I get fed up of seeing blatant rip-off of other people's software (and yes, Apple is not above this kind of plagiarism either). Just the other day I saw a carbon copy of the excellent Basecamp website, this time written in PHP.

Much as software patents are widely derided, I think those of us who earn a living writing software deserve the same kind of protection for our original ideas as someone building a hardware product.

Robert 'Groby' Blum
2006-08-10 06:11:16
Andy: Lighten up. Software is nothing but an implementation of an idea. Thankfuly, ideas are not yet protected. And if you're working on software you're usually not "ripping off" - you use other programs as inspiration. It's not like you copied the source - there's still a whole lot of work to be done.

As for the general idea of porting to the Windows world: Ugh. I'm a small fish even in the small Mac pond, but one reason why I chose to develop on the Mac is the environment. Cocoa/ObjC are lightyears ahead of anything Windows has to offer. If money is your *only* objective, that might be a valid choice. Me, I'd like to keep some fun in my work.

Matt Strange
2006-08-10 15:46:09
If money is your *only* objective, [porting to Windows] might be a valid choice.
Or not. if "getting bigger" is you objective, porting to Windows makes sense. Sure you'll sell a lot more copies of your software, but the cost of supporting those new customers will go through the roof.
It's just that the "issues" over there are much more wide-ranging and there are so many more variables (especially in hardware configuration) you have to consider that tech support becomes more complex, and therefore more expensive.
Oliver Breidenbach
2006-08-10 16:34:35
Well, you see, I've heard all these arguments about developing for Windows vs. developing for Mac. I just seem to be unable to find hard facts to back them up. What I find is that there is a wealth of software companies on Windows and they seem to be doing well. Strictly in a business sense of course. It might be harder to get attention on Windows, it might cost more on customer support, it might not be as much fun. But it seems to pay the bills quite well.
Bob Savage
2006-08-10 19:10:42
Might it be a better business model for us Mac developers to bring ideas from the Mac platform (including Apple's) to Windows than it is to create innovative apps for the Mac?

There are some good reasons that innovative software can be created on the Mac. Part of this is certainly the MacOSX operating system which includes many services to developers that are not available on Windows. One example is the very cool "Core Animation" framework that was just announced at WWDC. See

This sort of thing opens up very powerful tools that could even lead to whole new types of applications. Notably these OS resources make developing cool apps easier for the little guys, since they get the benefit of using the tools "free" when the develop on a Mac; they don't need a large, established codebase to compete with Adobe or Google, because Apple is letting them use some of their code for free!

So go to Windows and recreate these features, but before you do, consider how much help you are going to be getting from the "innovators" in Redmond.

2006-08-22 00:26:22
Tempo owners have different priorities, and don't care so much about the things that BMW owners do.