Mac Developer Program Invites iPhone SDK Halo Effect

This past Thursday Apple (s aapl) announced sweeping changes to the Developer Program. The old Select and Premiere programs have been replaced by a $99/year Mac Developer Program that is similar to the iPhone Developer Program. The old ADC programs were substantially more expensive ($499 and $3,499) and the program benefits have been simplified to match the new lower cost.

Apple had this to say…

Modeled after the highly successful iPhone Developer Program, we’ve relaunched the Mac Developer Program to offer members technical resources, support, access to pre-release software, developer forums and more, all for just $99 per year. As our developer base continues to grow in leaps and bounds, we’re working hard to ensure we provide our developers with everything they need to create innovative applications for both the iPhone OS and Mac OS X


Developers that enroll in the new Mac Developer Program have access to pre-release builds of Mac OS X, OS X Server, tools, and SDKs. Xcode was always available for free, but access to Snow Leopard for development will encourage developers to begin incorporating the unique technology available in 10.6 (Grand Central Dispatch, OpenCL, etc.) into their applications. OS X Server, even for development testing, is a nice plus.

The annual subscription includes two technical support incidents where Apple will assign an engineer from the developer support team to help track down a problem and recommend a solution. Additional support incidents are still available for purchase as they were under the old program. Incidents are $99 for a two-pack or $499 for a five-pack.
Members also have access to developer forums and video training. The forums are a great resource because they are filled with posts from registered developers, including many recognizable names from well-known Mac shops. The videos do not include the WWDC session videos, which are still available for purchase separately ($299 for a Mac session, or $499 for the complete collection).
It appears that access to the compatibility labs and the ADC Hardware Purchase discounts are not available in the new Mac Developer program. Existing members can continue to access their ADC benefits until their subscription expires.
Apple has not made any changes to its current programs for Support and Pro Apps certifications to expand into developer certifications.

The iPhone SDK Halo Effect

The new pricing and web site modeled after the iPhone program should serve to bring more developers over to the Mac side. With all the interest in iPhone apps, there are a number of developers that are now familiar with Objective-C and the Cocoa frameworks. There may be a sort of programming halo effect similar to the phenomenon seen on the consumer side where customers happy with the iPod or iPhone are convinced to try the Mac for their next computer. Gedeon Maheux co-founder of the successful design and development outfit Iconfactory had this to say:

The lower entry price and the ability to use knowledge learned for their mobile platforms both seem like a logical evolution of what they’ve done in the last few years.
The Mac has been out of the lime light for quite some time and I think Apple is rightfully attempting to put the focus back on the platform. It sure is exciting!

With the new file-sharing support in the iPad, desktop companion apps will be a great benefit to iPhone/iPad apps. Of course, designing apps for the iPad with its large screen is getting awfully close to designing an app for the Mac. I am hopeful that the new program will encourage even more development on the Mac OS platform. For example, casual games have made a huge splash in the App Store and bringing over some of these titles to the Mac might be great fun for those without iPhones, and an alternate revenue stream for publishers. The $99 price might be just enough to convince some iPhone developers to give it a go on the Mac as well.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: The App Developer’s Guide to Choosing a Mobile Platform