A lot of people, myself included, are excited about the arrival of the Mac App Store, but there’s a few issues still outstanding, some of which I spoke about yesterday. After a little bit of thinking, I came to some conclusions on how Apple might be able to deal with one of the bigger ones, namely helping users who have already paid for software transition into the App Store without having to repurchase it.
I see two possible solutions. The first is that Apple allow developers to issue “transfer” codes, similar to promo codes in the iOS App Store. Currently, as I understand it, there are limits to how this works in iOS, but in that case, we’re talking about a software ecosystem that didn’t exist prior to the device allowing it. In the case of the Mac, there are years of investment on the part of users, and loyalty built upon certain developers and their work.
The second might even be easier. Developers have lists of registered users and their associated email addresses and licenses. Just like there’s a “Redeem” section of the iTunes store, create a “Transfer License” area. Allow developers to upload a database of all their registered users to Apple. Customers who wish to transfer their licenses to the App Store can then fill out two fields: their email address on file with the dev and the license code they’ve already been issued. We’re probably mostly talking about power users here, so this two-step process shouldn’t be too difficult. Once the license is transferred, no one else can repeat this process (just as with the current iOS redeem codes). Furthermore, once the database was uploaded to Apple, the dev would in fact be implicitly agreeing to move all future purchases to the App Store, alleviating the need for two purchase channels. The existing user list goes in, and that’s it. After a while, this could even be phased out entirely.
I don’t think either of these would be too difficult to implement, especially in an effort to ease the transition from the web to the App Store for Mac purchases. It would be an extremely favorable position for Apple to take, and engender a lot of goodwill among users and devs, and would probably avoid polarizing the massive potential user base for the new store. I know I’d be more inclined to move toward it, knowing everything I’ve purchased thus far wasn’t completely negated by the new retail channel’s expectations.