AMITIAE - Friday 12 July 2013

Purchased Software not Recognised by the Mac App Store: Apple Support Suggests I buy it Again

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Mac App Store

This week, by some coincidence, a number of OS X users found that an update for Keynote was shown as available in the Mac App Store. Don't go rushing to check: this was an old one from late 2012; and it was already installed.

Keynote My immediate reaction on seeing an available update was to download it, but I had a less than pleasant surprise when an App Store dialogue told me that, I could not update the software as I had not owned the major version of the software.

It has been something of an annoyance that, ever since the appearance of the Mac App Store there appear to be loose ends: some software shows as installed, while some indicates it is not.

Applications that have been bought legitimately, even if they were online purchases from Apple, were never grandfathered, so the loyal purchasers of current versions of Aperture or iWork were simply left in the lurch. I also bought a family version of iLife to update the suite when that was announced.

As far as I am aware, no one has ever announced that these legitimate purchases were to be left out in the cold, although updates when they arrive are available via Apple's download pages; but you have to know they have been released as Software Update opens Mac App Store and nothing is shown as available.

This new notification, albeit spurious, touched a nerve here and I decided to find out if there was a way the earlier purchase could be recognised in my Mac App Store app. In short, No.


I wrote to Apple Support (for some reason I was linked to Support in Britain) and a reply to my query was in my mailbox the next morning. It was suggested initially that I should click on the Apple menu and try Software Update. It was also stated that apps not bought in the Mac App store could not be updated in the store, and that apps bought in the store could not be updated using the software update feature in OS X. As Software Update always opens the Mac App Store, and never links to other updates, I found this confusing. I was also a little peeved when it was suggested I might want to buy those apps in the Mac App Store.

Having bought them already, I thought this was impertinent. I replied with a screen shot of the panel, pointing out that (with Aperture for example) I have receipts going back to Version 1. I also pointed out the way Software Update works here and asked that the query be sent to a supervisor.

A reply came a day later from a senior advisor within the iTunes Support community who repeated (with different phrasing) the points that the first Support representative had made: software purchased via means other than the Mac App Store cannot be updated through the store, adding that with an older version it requires payment to update/upgrade.

Not quite, as the versions of Aperture, iWork and iLife I have are all the current versions, albeit bought "via means other than the Mac App Store": through Apple's own online purchasing systems or (in the case of iLife) the iStudio in Siam Discovery. The box is in my office. I have all the receipts.

iLife install

There is no point losing my temper with the Support guys. They are trapped by what Apple allows. If they are concerned privately, there is no way they would express this to a user (other than basic expressions of sympathy).

Aperture For all the users in the same position, with Aperture, iWork and with purchase copies of the last iLife update, there is nothing apparently that can be done. Certain updates do appear on the Apple downloads pages, but if there were a disaster, such as a hard disk crash and the user needed to reinstall, there are limits.

Some may have the DVD, but many users took advantage of Apple's early offers of downloading, purchase and registration online, before the Mac App Store existed. The downloaded software can no longer be retrieved from Apple, even if one has the receipts. And unless the user has a full backup, the only alternative would be to buy the software again. There seems to be a certain level of unfairness here: buy early and draw the short straw.

There is some speculation that Apple will be making iWork for the Mac free when the impressive iWork for iCloud is released. I do not expect this to happen. I do expect at some time in the future that there will be updates to iLife (or its successor) and to Aperture, with a version 4 release.

When any of these releases are made available, I will be one of the first to click and purchase, but I am not going to pay twice for the same, current applications.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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