How Users Will Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Mac App Store
The moment Steve Jobs announced the upcoming arrival of a Mac App Store, questions began popping up, and a lot of them had a decidedly negative tone. Will this app store have the same problems as the mobile version? Will Apple rule it with an iron fist? Will I have to jailbreak my MacBook? Relax. A Mac App Store will be a win for users, developers and Apple. And it won't be the only way to get Mac software.
10/26/10 5:00 AM PT
There's been a lot written in tech publications regarding Apple's upcoming Mac App Store, which the company introduced at last week's media event.
For plugged-in tech geeks, a common first set of related thoughts spring into negative questions: Will Apple patrol the Mac App Store too strictly with an obscure puritan glee? Will Apple's many restrictions stifle Mac developers? If Apple creates the best Mac App Store, will other distribution methods falter and die? Will Apple take over the world, making it seem like the company is doing it for the better good of consumers?
I admit, when I first heard the pitch, my first thought was an instant, "Awesome, and it's about time," followed by an immediate, "So, does this mean Apple is going to stifle apps, too? How will Flash play out? Apps or interfaces that Apple doesn't like? What about apps that do similar things to what Apple apps already do? Don't tell me I'm going to have to jailbreak my Mac!"
I've since had some time to think about it, and the pros far outweigh the cons.
Apple's Iron Fist of Doom
First of all, Apple is going to wield control over the Apple Mac App Store with an iron fist of destiny or doom. The company will make sure that only apps that are built using technologies it can control will be part of its Mac App Store ecosystem, which will immediately disqualify some apps and developers.
The apps will have to be pretty, have intuitive interfaces, and be at least marginally useful or entertaining. Developers won't know if their apps will pass muster until it's too late, in some cases, and they'll complain bitterly about spending time and effort only to be rejected. And if a developer isn't allowed into Apple's gated community, they might go out of business. Oh, and you can forget trial-use software.
For the vast majority of consumers, no one cares about these things, with the possible exception of trial-use software. For apps that cost only a few bucks, the risk is small. But Mac Apps might cost more, making trial options useful to consumers.
None of this will drastically affect the success of the Mac App Store.
It will be a raging success because Apple knows how to create easy solutions for consumers. The company proved this with the original iPhone App Store. As for upset developers, business logic will prevail. As Apple's Mac App Store becomes a large and viable distribution method, developers will come play in order to get in front of millions of Mac owners looking to buy Mac apps. If you sell something, no matter what it is, distribution is key. Even in an Internet world, those rules still apply. Manufacturers might not like Wal-Mart's many rules, but they still line up for a chance to sit on Wal-Mart's shelves.
It's Win-Win Win for Consumers
Overall, there are many reasons a Mac App Store will be a raging success for consumers.
- Easy installations. Granted, downloading and installing on a Mac isn't that hard, but the Mac App Store method figures to be even easier, similar to iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad downloads and installs. And no more pesky licensing keys to type in and keep track of.
- Easy upgrades. I find easy upgrades to be a bit of a double-edged sword, with no good way to roll back if I decide I don't like a new feature. Still, overall, I usually end up with better apps, and I appreciated the one-click ease-of-upgrading.
- Easy buying. Frankly, I tend to limit the number of places at which I do business online. If someone has a dubious or poorly constructed Web store, I'm not very likely to buy, even if they have a fantastic product. Same goes for downloading apps. I've rejected buying some apps simply because I couldn't tell much about the source. With a Mac App Store, I don't have to share credit card and account information with a pair of dubious dudes in a country on the other side of the world.
- Apple is doing the vetting. Apple is not an angel, but I trust Apple a lot further than I do Facebook or Google with its Android developers. Do I really want my personal information taken, compiled and sold in ways I can't even imagine? Apple has too much to risk to let this sort of thing get out of hand. Steve Jobs might price his products high, but I believe he's loathe to sell his customers' data. I like that.
- Easy App discovery. The biggest hardship for Mac owners isn't the lack of games or the lack of software -- in my opinion, it's been the lack of an easy way to find good software. There are magazines and blogs, ads and such, but none that have really penetrated the Mac consumer's attention. The Mac App Store will remind all of us that there is fantastic software for the Mac.
- A new channel will create new apps and new developers. Put an App Store in front of millions of consumers, and developers will come.
- Alternatives will still exist. This is the best piece yet. Just because Apple is creating a store, it doesn't mean that other methods can't coexist or even thrive. In fact, who owns bannedincupertino.com? There's an opportunity to create a store that exists outside of Apple's walled garden, and a Mac App Store might bring enough attention to Mac apps overall to help a site gain enough attention to thrive.
Overall, the Mac App Store will represent several steps forward for the Mac-lovin' community, even if the store stumbles out of the gate.
MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.