Apple Reverses Course on Charging Twice for Merged Mac, iOS Apps

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(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. said it will let developers build unified Mac and iPad apps and only charge users once, reversing course after criticism last year.

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant made the disclosure on Wednesday as part of early beta releases for new iPhone and iPad software, called iOS 13.4 and iPadOS 13.4, and accompanying upgrades to its Xcode app development tool.

In the release notes for the tools, Apple said the new software “supports building and distributing macOS apps as a universal purchase.” The company also said this will be “enabled by default” for apps created with the new developer tool.

Apple’s Catalyst initiative helps developers write apps for iPads and port them to Mac computers with minimal work. This unified approach increases the audience for developers, but they still had to sell their iPad apps and Mac apps separately, charging users twice. That spurred complaints.

Wednesday’s change addresses this problem. It will also apply to iPhone and Apple TV apps, the company said in a statement on its developer website. It also announced that it is adding support for in-app purchases to Apple Watch apps, potentially adding more recurring revenue to the product.

Longtime Apple software developer Steven Troughton-Smith applauded the change on Twitter.

When the merged app software launched last year, developers also criticized it for issues with user interfaces, struggles around porting games, and the work of unifying apps being more complicated than advertised. Apple hasn’t heavily promoted the initiative since it launched, but this change will likely result in stronger developer support.

Bloomberg News reported last year that Apple plans to let users run iPhone apps on Macs as early as this year and that the company is considering merging its App Stores as early as 2021.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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