Roben Kleene

The Mac Pro & Apple's Ecosystem

Alex Gollner on what Apple needs to do to make the Mac Pro successful. He makes the prescient point that cultivating a healthy ecosystem is more important than features:

The feature that matters the most is Apple’s go-to-market strategy. How will 2019 Mac Pro hardware, software and services will be sold and supported? If they answer remains ‘Apple will do it,’ the new computer may have failed already.

Up until 2010, there was a thriving third-party ecosystem to support professional Mac users. This ecosystem was made up of individuals and businesses who didn’t just ‘bet their business’ on professional Mac hardware and software but bet their business on those who themselves bet their businesses on the Mac.

One of the most frustrating things about modern Apple is how they prevent healthy businesses from forming around their products. Most of the creative apps on the iOS and Mac App Store seem to be supported by development teams on life support.

Why aren’t companies like Adobe (over 21,000 employees), Ableton (almost 500 employees, or Sketch forming on the iOS and Mac App Stores? Sketch has been around for nine years and their company page lists 71 employees. Savage Interactive, the company behind Procreate, which was the overall bestselling iPad app in 20181, has been around for eight years and lists 17 employees on their homepage. After that things drop off of a cliff. The popular video editing app LumaFusion is supported by a team eight2. For me personally, two of the apps I use to make iOS useful for work, WorkingCopy and Secure ShellFish (a git client and FTP client respectively) are maintained by one person.

It’s not enough just to make great products, you also need a great ecosystem. All of the popular creative apps are surrounded by a cottage industry of plugins, specialized hardware, and tutorials. The Mac has a great ecosystem of healthy businesses outside of the Mac App Store. The iOS App Store, while a popular place to publish apps for companies who have their main business elsewhere3, and a few small companies, it’s just not a good place to build a business in general. The risk is too high, and the ceiling of success too low. And, by extension, it’s a bad platform for users interested in doing creative work to invest in because the tools they depend on often disappear overnight.

  1. Procreate, not coincidentally, is also the creative app that is the best match for the iPad’s form factor. ↩︎

  2. As far as the Mac indy app companies, OmniGroup’s about page lists 42 and Rogue Amoeba’s lists 10↩︎

  3. Businesses love growth and a new iOS app is by definition growth. ↩︎