considering the Mac development space

The state of Mac development surprises me. There aren't a lot of big Mac dev shops. There's us, with our 200+ Mac developers. There's Adobe and IBM, although I'm not sure if either of them have a lot of Mac-only folks. So, other than us or Apple, I'm not sure if there really are a lot of really big Mac-only development shops.

Then there's scores of indies, making great apps. Most of these indies are just a couple of people, working out of their home or a coffee shop.

There doesn't seem to be a middle ground. You've got us with our 200-some people, and then you've got the indies. Maybe I'm just missing it, but I'm not seeing a lot of companies between those two points. Omni? Maybe the Intuit teams working on Quicken and TurboTax? The Aspyr guys, who provide me with my Sims? Who else?

With a spectrum of development that's so heavily bifurcated, I wonder what that says about the state of Mac development. Does it matter that there's not a lot of middle ground between the indies and the big shops? For that matter, does it matter that MacBU is the definition of "big shop", whereas 200 people (remember, that's not 200 developers, that's 200 people) wouldn't be considered to be a lot of people in a Windows shop?

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a complaint about having a robust indie development community. There's plenty of indie apps that I use and love. I don't want indie development to dry up 'cause I don't want to lose those apps. I'm simply wondering whether there should be a step or two between indie and big corporation.

Comments (5)

  1. jwmiller5 says:

    maybe part of this is just the ecosystem. There aren’t as many supported hardware/software configurations, so maybe a lot more firms can stay small rather than having to add additional testers/config managers/help desk.

    I think a lot of the core Apple software iTunes/GarageBand/… is held pretty close to Apple. I’d hate to go up against that.

    I’d imagine everything else is web based. It will support Mac/Windows/Linux. This is probably where your mid-size Apple firms are. So our growth pattern looks like

    indie –> web firm –> Apple

  2. An interesting point, but that makes me wonder why the Windows spectrum is more evenly-spread than the Mac spectrum.  Why isn’t mid-sized Windows dev also being driven into web stuff?

  3. Marc says:

    (I kind of have to agree with your first commenter, especially and unfortunately about the web.)

    Apple’s "beleaguered" status through much of the ’90s and early ’00s (i.e., the height of client-side computing) probably didn’t leave much of anyone with a codebase big enough to carry into the present day. By the time Apple was getting good airplay and a lot of these smaller shops showed up, none of them had a sizable user base to play against the first-party apps and their design chops, and so are sort of permanently limited to second-rate niche players. In contrast, your "moderate-sized" Windows devs are probably still milking old codebases written for Windows 95, and have dev managers and program managers yelling at engineering about how they can’t take the risk of a web-based re-write.

    I would also hazard a guess that most of the pre-existing "moderate" sized apps are "boring" industry-specific stuff and games, both things outside the traditional Mac universe. Especially for many industry-specific applications, a web-based port offers more future ROI (service based! you can threaten to cut people off! and it still runs on Windows) than a Mac port (psh, 5% of the market, and all those demanding Mac users do is whine about the UX).

  4. There are (at least) four possible answers.

    First is ecosystem. A "Microsoft shop" might be doing anything from writing Windows desktop apps to creating solutions that run on SharePoint to building add-ons for Exchange. Apple’s ecosystem (and footprint) aren’t nearly as broad. For example, the market for building add-ons for the mail server in OS X Server has got to be tiny.

    Second is verticaliztion (just made that word up, sosumi). There are tons of Windows apps that occupy small niches: radio astronomy, veterinary practice management, machine tool control, and so on. Sure, some of these niches have Mac products too, but many don’t. Some of those niches are large enough to support midsized dev shops.

  5. Aram says:

    There is an industry-wide tendency of mergers and mid-sized companies are the major target of acquisitions. Apple has acquired quite a few companies that did development for Mac. Microsoft did the same. There are some few to be acquired, like Parallels. That is only a matter of time.

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