Jan 102011

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t exactly high-five my monitor when I read the announcement about an upcoming “Mac App Store”. My thought was “cool”. I probably shrugged. While it was going to be nice having an Apple-backed resource for getting software, I didn’t think it would provide compelling advantages to shopping direct with developers. After having the opportunity to play with it a while and downloading a few software titles, however, there are things that make the App Store something more than a convenience. It’s another impressive factor to be considered by people making a platform decision – or those currently on a non-Mac platform to switch.

No License B.S.

How many times have you gone to install a piece of software, discover that you’d lost the license key and have to jump through hoops to get the key back, if you did at all? Ever been prevented from installing software on multiple Macs, or at least feigned feeling badly about doing so? No more. Apple uses your MobileMe account to track your purchases and will download copies to as many machines as are authorized under your name.

A Central Hub for App Discovery and Due Diligence

One of the best things about the iOS App Store (or most destructive, depending on your level of impulse control) is that it allows you to find software that you didn’t know you needed. This can be in the form of “New and Noteworthy”, “What’s Hot”, “Staff Favorites” or the straight-up “Top Charts”. Categories like Games, Lifestyle and my personal favorite “Pr0nductivity” further segment your options.

Some people spam the App Store reviews, especially for the free or low-cost software (“Nowhere in the software description does the developer state that there is a subscription fee!!! It took 3 whole minutes of my life to install this free POS!!! Waaahhh!!! One star!!!”), but there are also many thoughtful and well-written reviews. Off the cuff, I’ve noticed the Mac App Store reviews are generally better, probably due to the relatively higher prices. Think about how you used to get software. Either you knew you needed it, or you read a review on something like Macworld or iusethis.com. The Mac App Store, like the iOS App Store, provides not only tools to find new software, but numerous reviews for each of them.

One Stop Updating

Dazzle has been a godsend for OS X software updates, but you need to be running the application to have access to updates, and even then some apps require you to enable automatic updates in preferences. The Mac App Store handles updating centrally, so every time you open it, you see the familiar App Store badge with the number of updates available. Not only is the process centralized, the quality of the experience is consistent for all apps you get from the store. If you’ve ever used the shitastic Microsoft Office or any of the Adobe updaters, you know straightforward software updates aren’t a given.

The Upshot

The option for developers to submit their apps to a centralized Apple repository will affect the process of app discovery and administration for all Mac users. As my friends at T-GAAP allude, this is going to put pressure on big houses like Adobe and Microsoft (OK, who are we kidding? Microsoft doesn’t give a shit about the Mac platform). People who buy Photoshop now may still end up doing so, but I’m willing to bet that some users give serious thought to their use cases before plunking down a grand and still having to deal with invasive license keys and shitty updaters. Maybe they’ll buy Pixelmator in the App Store instead. Like a lot of other (respected) pundits in the Appleverse, I think the overall effect will be of driving down the cost of apps.

2.0 Wish List

As with any 1.0, the Mac App Store isn’t perfect. Some things I’d like to see incorporated include the ability to download demo versions of apps (a less egregious in the iOS App Store IMO because of the cost of downloading a stinker is generally less). I’d love to see the inclusion of more sophisticated apps – yes, even Photoshop. I don’t know how robust the App Store can be in administering updates as complex as Adobe’s appear to be, but it’d be great to have the entire Mac App universe under one roof.

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