I purchased my first application from the Mac OS App Store this week; it cost $99. Before I hit the purchase button, though, I wondered: Was I going to have to spend that $99 three times? Unlike my phone, of which I have only one, I have a Mac at work, one at home, and a laptop. Multiplying every purchase by three was going to make this a much more expensive proposition.
Being in the business of writing software for a living, I try to be conscientious regarding software license terms. To do that, I actually read the license agreements. Or at least, the part of them that deals with how many computers the software can be installed on.
In my experience with such terms, there has been a gradual evolution away from licenses tied to specific computers to accommodating the desktop/laptop combination that’s common these days. But, that still left the typical number of machines per license at two, and one of them had to be a laptop.
The Mac App Store licensing terms are much more generous: Each purchase can be used on any Mac that you own or control. From the Mac App Store FAQ:
Can I use apps from the Mac App Store on more than on computer?
Apps from the Mac App Store may be used on any Macs that you own or control for your personal use.
Re-assured that I’d only have to spend my $99 once, I proceeded with the purchase.
Does this represent a shift towards lower software costs for consumers? That $99 license from the Mac App Store cost the same as buying the software directly from its publisher, but the publisher’s license was more restrictive: I would have had to purchase two copies for twice the price.
Yes and no. The kicker is that the Mac App Store works only for my Mac. Want the same app for your iPad? That’s another $40. And for your iPhone? That’s another $20. So yes, this change in licensing terms brings down the cost of software for desktop and laptop computers. But at the same time, I’m spending more on software than ever before because I’m also buying it for different types of device. Device proliferation is driving costs right back up.