Blog Post

Apple: No Trials in the Mac App Store

If you want to provide potential customers with a demo or otherwise function-limited version of your game so they can test it out before purchase, Apple (s aapl) wants you to do it on your own time and in your own space. The Mac App Store will be trial- and demo-free.

That’s according to new documents released late Thursday. The new updates surrounding Mac App Store policy appeared in Apple’s News and Announcements for Apple Developers Thursday evening, in anticipation of the approaching launch of Apple’s new OS X software sales and distribution platform. The Mac App Store is expected to go live sometime in January, if Apple keeps to Steve Jobs’ stated timeline.

The new info told developers to keep demo versions of their software out of Apple’s arena:

Your website is the best place to provide demos, trial versions, or betas of your software for customers to explore. The apps you submit to be reviewed for the Mac App Store should be fully functional, retail versions of your apps.

Of course, on the iOS App Store, while the word “demo” never actually appears, publishers are free to release trial versions of their programs, most often appearing as standalone “Lite” applications. These are distributed for free, and contain a limited preview of the full version’s gameplay. Apple not allowing these types of apps on the Mac App Store could have a serious impact on sales.

Apple’s logic seems to be that if users can access demos elsewhere, it’d rather not deal with them at all. With iOS, which is a completely closed ecosystem (not counting jailbreaking), the only way for a user to download and install software is through the App Store, so Cupertino has no choice but to allow Lite editions, lest developers abandon the platform altogether.

I won’t miss trials, since I’ll track them down wherever they may reside, but I don’t think the Mac App Store isn’t designed with users like me in mind. It seems tailored toward the casual Mac owner, who would otherwise not download much or any third-party software. My worry is that without quick and easy access to demos, that crowd won’t pony up for the full versions in anywhere near the numbers they might otherwise.

How do you feel about this particular Mac App Store limitation, as both consumers and developers?

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11 Responses to “Apple: No Trials in the Mac App Store”

  1. I don’t quite understand the reasoning here and think Apple are missing out. I am not going to buy any software without a trial. Once I download the trial from the developers site, and I like it, I will upgrade the trial already installed, no need to re-download from the App Store. Apple will then miss out on commission.

  2. Neil Keogh

    I keep reading about the issue of no demos/trial versions of apps on the Mac App Store & I have to say that I am feeling somewhat confused!

    In the past, the downloads section of the Apple website which is being replaced by the Mac App Store always featured trial/demo versions of fully paid apps.

    However on the iPhone App Store, there has always been the full paid version & a free “Lite” version of an App, such as Angry Birds & Angry Birds “Lite” which was more limited.

    My question is do Apple view demo/trial & “Lite” version of apps as the same thing or totally different?

    If Apple are still offering “Lite” versions of apps with limited functionality compared to the full version, this is fine by me as it still gives you a chance to get a free taster of the full app.

    However I can see a potential risk of offering a full version of an app on a timed trial version (such as 30day ect) as it opens up the risk of hackers reverse engineering the code of the app to remove the 30day trial cap, therefore giving people an app for free & losing developers income in the process!

  3. That’s great news for me! I like it when free apps are actually ALWAYS free apps, not free previews. Devs should put a link to the preview in the description of your app, but the submitted app itself should always be fully functional. Also, multiple entries for one app (the “real” app, the fully-functional trial, the lite version and probably even some kind of beta) were really frustrating.

    However, Apple could also add a simple “Don’t display preview versions” option in the App Store client, or put a “Download preview” button next to the “Buy” button on apps with trials.

  4. I think this is incredibly stupid on Apple’s part. People don’t want to be bothered to work to get something, that’s the whole POINT of the app store. Yet Mac software does and will cost more than iPhone software, and as such, people are going to want to try before they buy.

    I just don’t get what Apple is thinking here.

  5. Steve W, Indialantic FL

    In the personal computer world, Beta means buggy. I can understand why Apple wants nothing to do with buggy.

    Then there is demo ware. In the personal computer world, demos are typically the full application, and require a key to unlock certain features. I wonder if Apple will allow demos that ARE the full application and require a key to unlock certain features. I can understand why Apple wants nothing to do with demos that ARE NOT the full application. First, I imagine they don’t want to distribute a demo without testing the full application. In the personal computer world, it is not unheard of to have demos for vaporware, and Apple wants nothing to do with that. Second, Apple probably doesn’t want developers to game the system, that is, use the Apple store to distribute demos and then directing demo users to another store to purchase the full application.

  6. I’d ask the opposite question– why does Apple allow trial and demo apps in the iPhone store? After all, it’s a money losing proposition for Apple because they have to test and host free apps. The reason is that the iPhone app store is the only way (without jailbreaking) for iPhone users to get apps, so Apple really has no choice in the matter. They have to host trial and demo apps, even though it’s a money-losing proposition, because otherwise developers would find it impossible to market their apps and go elsewhere. But with Mac apps, Apple has a choice, and they’re doing the obvious thing.

  7. i think that if anything Apple could and should offer a couple of URL fields on an App’s profile:

    – [Beta Available,
    – [Free Trial Available,

    Which the app publisher could elect to set based on availability. It adds no operational overhead to Apple, and it gives software makers an option.

    I feel the reason for the double-standard isn’t so-much that iOS is a closed platform, but rather that people have been downloading Trial, Free(mium), and Beta software from the Web on Desktop operating systems since at least 1995. It’s a well-learned pattern (for better or worse), and desktop web browsers, browsable file-systems, software .pkg or .dmg files, along with package receipts in ~/Library make the whole process easy and robust. Brokering the distribution of unpaid software via yet another desktop channel would not only add overhead for Apple, but also somewhat confuse learned behaviors.

    The other big difference between handheld and desktop operating systems, is that handheld devices are far more conducive to building applications that are tightly-coupled to web services, offering a model where users pay or otherwise participate in an online ecosystem thru a lightweight handheld application, often tied to handheld-specific features such as geo-location, on-the-go picture and video sharing, bar-code scanning etc. This participation subsidizes the software, and as such, warrants the distribution of the software for Free.

    Compelling, free, ad-subsidized desktop online applications are built as web applications, and very soon mostly in HTML5.

    Compelling, free, ad-subsidized handheld online applications are built as native applications.

    As such, free native software distribution is vital on handheld devices, but isn’t vital to desktop operating systems.

  8. champs794

    I’m very concerned about the app store. To some extent, the iOS-ification will dumb down the userbase, but not how people are thinking.

    Relatively speaking, I’m more concerned that it’s going to make the final steps toward power user status more difficult, that niche will shrink, and it will get less attention. Sure, many of those people work at Apple and have a voice, but it’s more than just engineers and developers working in Cupertino.

  9. For me, this restriction will kill some of the point of the app store. I’m not likely to buy a copy of a “full” Mac OS application without trying it first. If I have to seek out the developer’s website to download a trial, then I’m probably going to buy it straight from them too rather than go back to the app store to give Apple their 30% cut. That’s assuming that the developers have their applications available outside the app store (which I think they’d be smart to do).

  10. wbjethro

    Home page link on App Store page is fine for general reasons but not good enough to let a casual user know there is a demo available. Let the developers have a link on their App Store page that directs users to a direct download for a demo.