The iPad Pro has been touted as powerful enough to replace laptop and desktop computers, but many developers tell The Verge that they see big problems with developing apps specifically for the larger device’s enhanced capabilities. While the tablet is fast enough to run professional-grade software, it still operates on iOS, making all apps developed for it subject to App Store rules. The App Store doesn’t allow free trials as part of the download process, and developers like Bohemian Coding co-founders Pieter Omvlee and Emanuel Sa don’t see users paying $99 for their Sketch app without ever seeing it work. “Sketch on the Mac costs $99, and we wouldn’t dare ask someone to pay $99 without having seen or tried it first,” Omvlee said. “So to be sold through the App Store, we would have to dramatically lower the price, and then, since we’re a niche app, we wouldn’t have the volume to make up for it.”
Other developers are more worried about the lack of paid updates that are routinely offered for more expensive Mac software. Since the App Store doesn’t provide for paid updates, developers are forced to consider launching an entirely new app every time. FiftyThree co-founder and CEO Georg Petschnigg said his company’s free Paper app has proved much more expensive to maintain than it was to create in the first place. “The first version of Paper, we had three people working on it,” Petschnigg said. “Now we have 25 people working on it, testing on eight or nine different platforms, in 13 different languages.” While software giants like Adobe and Microsoft can absorb those costs without seriously impacting their bottom line, smaller developers see their position as more tenuous. Most of the top iOS app downloads to date are free-to-play games and rely on in-app purchases to turn a profit, a model that doesn’t work for developers making the types of creativity apps well-suited to the iPad Pro.
While some developers see potential for selling new tools and features as in-app purchases, Omvlee said he doesn’t see that working for Sketch. “Some tools like Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Cloud have enough force behind them that they can demand this and people, grudgingly, pay it. Many of our customers don’t use Sketch daily, though, and to charge monthly for that is harder to justify,” he said.