Apple is moving its developers and customers to auto-renewing subscriptions instead of outright purchases on all Apple platforms, including Mac OS. And it’s high time too.

In the olden days when customers would pay for a desktop app once (or at least the EULA that let them use it), software vendors could only prosper by getting every more first-time customers, or angering at least a third of their user base every year by offering a paid “upgrade” of either features that should have been in the software to begin with or added as developerd, or features nobody wanted. (Looking at you Microsoft Word and ScreenFlow and lots of others.)

That’s in my opinion why desktop apps (at least Mac, I don’t have to care anymore about Windows and I don’t) has effectively been a frozen market: a few major vendors, a bunch of old software desperate for new revenue because their products are mature (think Smile Software and their desperation move to make TextExpander subscription based for the same basic app.).

Software as a Service online apps when they finally got good enough for regular people to use blew the old desktop revenue model up. Now online, it’s all about continuous delivery of ever-improving web apps, a steady income flow that is easily 3x annually what a desktop app could bring in, and product managers who get to lose sleep over whether they are about to add one too many features and crash their user base who never heard the words “brand loyalty” in the same sentence.

Meanwhile over in the iOS App Store, gazillions of new developers here and are bringing out apps which was good, but except for a few top selling and charging titles in each category, most apps languish in obscurity. How many pdf readers or editors does the average customer need? 10, 20, 50? Nope. One. Maybe two, if that’s essential for your day job.

Now, finally, Apple is changing the proposition for desktop developers. You come up with an app people want, let them buy it month to month, keep them happy and well write you a check every month for 70% of what we take in. Hell, keep doing it and in the second and subsequent years we’ll sweeten the deal and you’ll get 85% of the gross revenue.

Steady revenue means steady paychecks, breathing room for innovation and closer relationships with customers who can cancel anytime. I personally hope we’ll see a big uptick in Mac desktop software that doesn’t suck (databases anyone?) from new software vendors more interested in going from being somebody else’s a dev to starting their own small prosperous software company.