The Mac App Store is quite fascinating. It rests in the dock and doesn’t make a peep, but when it is opened, things get interesting. This represents a huge change in how we think about applications on Mac OS X. Yet for all the things that the Mac App Store represents, the most important is that this could be the beginning of making desktop operating systems relevant again. But no one is saying that it will be easy.
We currently live in a world where mobile computing is where it’s at. Desktop computers are a thing of the past. The accompanying desktop operating systems are following suit. No one cares if you are rocking Windows 7 or Mac OS X any more; it’s all about iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry OS, and the other assortment of mobile operating systems that are available. This new breed of mobile devices and computing on the go is where the money is flowing for both manufacturer and third-party developer.
This seemed to be the future — and it still is — however, Apple threw us a bit of a curveball with the recent release of the Mac App Store. Questions surrounding its existence were aplenty — including whether these apps would tie into iOS in any way — but it all seemed to fall into place. The motivation behind this was clearly to exploit Mac OS X and provide this old dog with a new way to generate money for Apple and third-party developers.
It appears to be working. And there are many beneficiaries of the Mac App Store, but the biggest winner here might ultimately be the whole concept of desktop/notebook computing. The desktop isn’t dead yet!
Let’s get real: the whole concept of walking into a store, purchasing a piece of software, and installing it on your computer is, for the sake of this argument, dead. Even the thought of going online to developer’s website to download a specific piece of software is beginning to feel, for better or for worse, archaic.
What was needed was a way to maintain, discover, purchase, install, and update software in an all-in-one solution. This came in the form of iOS and the App Store. But it was relatively easy to make this happen: a new breed of computing platform were being developed, and it is easy to innovate when the platform changes. Both the smartphone and slate/tablet computer was an area that benefit from innovation. However, the desktop/laptop computer is still the same as it was many years ago. You can only do but so much with that.
This is why I, for one, thought that Mac OS X would eventually die before we would ever see an App Store on it. I was convinced that computers that ran Mac OS X would eventually be replaced by iOS. Clearly, I was wrong (at least for now, as this could still happen in the long run). Apple opted to go for a compromise (which I also thought was possible): they would keep the operating system as is, but they would take all of the functionality and accessibility of the App Store and implement it within Mac OS X. Smart thinking, Apple.
Honestly, it isn’t that incredibly mind blowing if you ask me — if you check out the App Store on iPad, the similarities are there. But that isn’t the point here. The point is that Mac OS X developers now have a better way to promote their applications. They have new source of income, too. Furthermore, they have a better, although far from perfect, way to combat piracy.
Now, developers can take all of the benefits that the iOS has and transform them to Mac OS X. The convenience alone is tempting for consumers to splurge on these applications.
So everyone is happy now: developers have the opportunity to showcase their desktop applications and to generate more money, and Apple has the opportunity to take its slice of the pie with little effort on their part. It is clearly a win-win situation.
This means that developers of Mac (and Windows) software have reason to celebrate. There is money to be made from Mac OS X. Who knows: Microsoft might join the party and create their own App Store for Windows 7 or a future version of Windows, thus giving Windows developers reason to celebrate. This could be the light at the end of the tunnel for desktop operating systems. They needed it too, especially if they want to continue to grow well into the future (or to at least even have a future).
Consumers will also benefit, because there is now a clear-cut arena for developers to compete. Developers will have to create compelling software to be allowed inside of the Mac App Store, and it will surely give developers of old and new an outlet to show off their skills and profit from it. Because of the sheer popularity of the Apple ecosystem and iOS, it is sure to spill over to the Mac App Store. This competition will result in lower costs to consumers, as these developers will have to compete on price. Cheaper software and better designed software sounds good to me.
And, of course, Apple benefits. That piece of the pie that I mentioned earlier is only 30 percent of the profits generated from App Store sales. Evernote reported that they generated 320,000 downloads from the App Store within the first week of its launch. Evernote is a free application, but it is safe to assume that other developers of pay applications — like Angry Birds HD — are enjoying increased sales too. It is all the more reason to be bullish on Apple’s stock.
A Few Concerns
But as great as this all sounds, there are some things to be worried about.
The first is the fact that many of the pay-for applications don’t have demos or trials. Once you buy an application from the App Store, there is no turning back. With applications that cost as much as $50, having to go in blind is not my idea of an ideal situation. Of course, users have deal with this on iOS as well (but not necessarily on Android), but this is desktop software. Most desktop software that I have ever installed has had a trial version, especially for Mac OS X. In fact, I can’t recall a single piece of software that I was interested in on OS X that hasn’t offer a demo or trial. It would be nice if Apple could resolve this issue.
The next is that the App Store is pitting developers in a highly competitive environment, and this means that these developers are starting to compete on price. Applications that I have normally seen listed for hundreds of dollars (e.g. Sketchbook Pro) are now a fraction of the price. This is good for consumers, of course, but it might not be ideal for developers who need to charge more for the time they put into developing products. Developers can adapt, but it does run the risk of cheapening their efforts.
Another issue I have with the App Store is that for all of the amazing software that Mac OS has, much of it isn’t available on the Mac App Store: Skitch, Screen Flick, Scrivener, TextMate, Transmission and many more are a no show. This isn’t necessarily Apple’s fault nor the developers’ fault, but it is still a shame. This issue can be resolved over time, if the developers jump on board, so it might just be a matter of time.
Finally, there will always be the possibility that I will end up writing a piece in the future about how Apple overstepped its boundaries by removing an application that probably didn’t deserve it. That’s to be expected.
Still, the pros, by far, outweigh the cons.
Why I Love It
The real reason I enjoy the Mac App Store is that it gives me a way to discover new applications. I admit that I haven’t been as interested in discovering what is new in Mac OS X software in the past few years — I simply haven’t kept up with it. But the App Store gives me a reason to check out what is new and to see what is popular. It excites me because I now have a way to get more out of my Macbook, as opposed to only running Safari all day long.
Since installing App Store, I’ve installed Twitter, Sketchbook Express, Awesome Memory, Trillian, Alfred, Pixelmator, SoundCloud, Evernote, Kindle, and quite few others that have caught my attention. Most of these applications I wouldn’t have bothered with, but now that the App Store is here, I am glad that I discovered them.
So, in the end, there might be a few quibbles here and there, but what we have here is ultimately another Apple-owned ecosystem that is expected to thrive. It’s great for developers, consumers, and those who run traditional operating systems.
How couldn’t you love this?