In the wake of the latest Apple event, we at Dice had one firm takeaway: There wasn’t much offered onstage for developers. That was a sentiment shared across the Web. With WWDC just around the corner, we’re wondering: What is Apple’s biggest problem right now, at least from a tech pro perspective?
If you’re an iOS, macOS, tvOS, or watchOS developer, you care about the state of Apple’s platforms. Even if you’re not involved in the ecosystem, what Apple does tends to shift other corners of the tech world (for example, smartphones used to not have screen notches; now they’re ubiquitous, and mobile app developers have to react accordingly when wrestling with screen dimensions).
Maybe it’s hardware that’s bugging you. You might not develop for one of the aforementioned platforms, but you do love your new MacBook Pro. It’s a great machine, but the keyboard is a known problem. How could Apple, master of the hardware universe, make such a glaring mistake with one of the most critical aspects of its core computing offering?
Or maybe you’re just waiting patiently for an external keyboard with a Touch Bar. And hey… where’s the new Mac Pro?! Apple definitely has a ‘pro’ hardware problem right now, but is it their biggest issue?
Or maybe subscription services are the real problem (in your view). The TV app for Apple TV is becoming more than a service that uses machine learning to surface shows you want to watch, and News is now a $10/month fee for full access to a variety of magazines and newspapers. There’s also Apple Music. And iCloud. And soon, the Apple Arcade gaming subscription service. Apple even has a proper credit card, now.
But for the most part, there’s not a lot developers can do with these subscription services. We’ve seen some apps that dig into Apple Music, but they’re essentially listing your most-played songs. By and large, developers have no avenue for creating an Apple News app, re-thinking how iCloud Drive functions, and, aside from building a game and hoping it reaches the eyeballs of the right people within the company, no way to tap into Apple Arcade.
If you’ve ever filed a Radar (i.e., Apple’s bug reporting system), you understand why it’s so bad. In theory, someone at Apple takes a look at your Radar, considers its merits, responds to you, then sends the bug on its way to be fixed. What usually happens is someone at Apple files it as a duplicate and closes it, or simply never responds to you. It’s the worst of both worlds: it’s either in some engineering queue to be examined, or just trashed. It’s a clumsy, broken system with bugs that have lingered for years with no resolution… but is that the worst problem developers face?
Marzipan, the scheme Apple is apparently working on to provide cross-platform apps for iOS and macOS, looms large. The refreshed macOS App Store is in desperate need of attention, but it’s starting to look like a copycat of the iOS App Store (which will make their inevitable merging less awkward… hopefully).
Many developers are second-guessing what’s next for iOS and macOS, and how the disparate frameworks will be utilized. There are a lot of questions left unanswered, and WWDC 2019 will likely give us necessary clues as to what’s next, but for the moment, we just don’t know. And for many developers, that’s confusing (and not great).
Finally, there’s the revenue split. Apple takes 30 percent of all app sales, and the only reprieve is to have a subscription-based app (where the revenue spit for developers jumps to 85 percent from 70 percent after the subscriber’s first year). Apple does a lot for developers, but also forces developers into their App Store pipeline; in 2019, a 30 percent cut of apps feels punitive.
WWDC 2019 may solve some (or all!) of these issues. But we want to know what you think Apple’s biggest issue is today. Take our anonymous survey below, and we’ll publish our findings in a future Insights article. Stay tuned!