Can you remember when you walked into a store the last time, picked up a box with some software in it, paid for it, brought it home, installed it from CD and all that before you could use it? Neither can I. With iPhone introduced in 2007 and the App Store for iOS that followed a year later, Apple changed the distribution model for any kind of software for mobile devices and now they’ve done the same for computers.
To get to the Mac App Store, you need to have Mac OS X 10.6.6 and run Software Update to download the required application. In contrast to the iOS App Store, the Mac one exists as its own application. After it’s downloaded you end up with another icon in your Dock. With an Apple ID — can be the same you use for iOS apps — you can then log in, browse the apps, pay for them if that’s required, download and install them. It’s all in one place, which means convenience for you.
Apple can’t take credit for being the first to do this, although I’m sure Cupertino will try. Last year, Intel launched AppUp, an online app store for netbooks, and arguably by any measure it’s not made any significant impact on the market. Recently Google opened the doors to its ChromeWeb Store, a place where you can get Web apps for the Chrome browser.
Apple is, of course, supporting its own App Store in a big way. You can find the iLife and iWork ’11 suites there as well as Aperture. Advanced software from other manufacturers, like Adobe Photoshop, is still not available in the Mac App Store and perhaps it’ll never be a considerable distribution model for that sort of software. Other software manufacturers have fully embraced the new model. For example, Pixelmator, a great graphics editor, is now Mac App Store exclusive.
So Apple was not the first with an application store for computer but they are making a bigger impact than the others and will set the benchmark, which everyone else now will have to match. For customers, I think, this is good news as they will get an easier way to find, install and use applications for their Macs. It remains to be seen if the Mac App Store will be as big a success as its iOS sibling has been. From a user’s point of view, a computer is obviously very different from a smartphone, but I think the basic idea of an app can work just as well on this new platform.
A significant difference between the two worlds is that we’ve used software on computers for, like, forever, but for smartphones only a couple of years. Indeed, a smartphone is a mobile phone that runs apps. Now Apple is betting that we’ll want apps for our Macs just as much as we want them for our iPhones and iPads. Would you bet against Apple on this? I know I won’t.
· Magnus Nystedt is a frequent technology commentator and blogger. You can read more of Magnus’ work at www.nystedt.org
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