5 Ways the App Store Will Rock the Mac Platform
The Mac App Store will be here Jan. 6, and it looks like there will be a lot to like about it. An app store for the Mac run much the same way the iOS App Store has been will mean easier app discovery, purchases made from a trusted source, no-hastle installation, and the benefit of a vibrant and useful review system.
12/21/10 5:00 AM PT
Frankly, I'm surprised at how excited I am to see the Mac App Store coming Jan. 6. For me, first and foremost, it's about easy application discovery and instant buying from a trusted source.
Sure, you can download many Mac apps from a variety of developer websites, but then you're also sharing a lot of key details about your identity, home and billing information. In an age where cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, I like to try to reduce my exposure. Some of these innovative developers are just dudes in a garage, and when push comes to shove -- say, their brother gets in too deep with some gambling debts made in the shady areas of Vegas -- what are they going to do? Hold an online fire sale to drum up some quick cash?
I understand that Apple isn't going to be able to go all Big Brother for us over every single line of code in an application, and while I have misgivings about all the electronic Big Brothers we already have, the Mac App Store is going to help me derive more value out of my Mac, more easily, maybe even from day one.
According to the latest rumors, iWork '09 is slipping out of stock, paving the way for iWork '11. And wouldn't Apple like to deliver iWork '11 with its brand new Mac App Store? I think so, and I'm due for an iWork upgrade. So how might this benefit me? Instant download gratification and no shipping charges. I'm in.
Still, there's a lot more to like about Apple's deceptively awesome Mac App Store.
1. Easy App Discovery From a Trusted Source
There are actually two reasons packed into this point, but they go hand-in-hand.
What's the most difficult and annoying thing about being a Mac user? For me, it's software ubiquity. I can walk into any Staples, Walmart, Office Depot or independent PC and game store in the mall and find hundreds of packaged software titles for PCs, but finding Mac software is much more difficult. I might find a few applications or a few games, but they will represent only a tiny slice of the great software that's available for Mac already, hiding out in the great wasteland of the Internet that Google searches.
I'm more likely to stumble upon great new applications if I know where to look. Plus, if I know the download is being served up by Apple and not some poorly managed and possibly infected server with a pretty website being served from a crime syndicate in a country on the other side of the world, I'm more likely to click.
2. New Easy Installation
Installing new applications on a Mac isn't particularly hard, but it's not nearly as simple as it should be. Applications don't always install themselves in the same folders, nor do they always store data in the same places. To make it more confusing, sometimes I can drag and drop an application icon around, and sometimes I have to step through an installer and type in my password. And then remember to eject and delete disk images or zipped files left sitting around.
Here's Apple's new take: "The Mac App Store revolutionizes the way applications are installed on a computer -- it happens in one step. Enter the same iTunes password you use to buy apps on iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. And within seconds, your new app flies to your Dock, ready to go."
Wow. I'm in.
3. New Licensing Terms
I'm not a 100 percent positive on how this is going to shake out, but it's clear that Mac App Store apps can't require buyers to enter in any special licensing keys to get them to work. As an extension of this, it may even mean that if I buy an application, I can install it on several of my computers without having to buy it again. If this works like the iOS App Store, any iPod touch and iPhone that I sync through my Mac and my iTunes account can have an app that I purchased reside on any of my iOS devices.
This is great for families, of course, and great for customers who have an iPhone and say, an iPad. If Apple has created a similar rule, it's truly a revolutionary change for your average consumer -- I don't have to worry about "family packs" or losing licensing keys. If I upgrade to a new Mac, I don't get locked out of an application because it's also still sitting on my old MacBook at the kitchen table.
Apple says we can install apps on every Mac we use (though I'm not sure how far this extends out and about) and we can even download them again if we lose or delete them. As a consumer, I want to buy an app and then use it. Anything that gets in the way of buying and using is old-school pain. I'm pleased that Apple is simplifying the path from purchase to use.
4. Easy Update Discovery
Because the Mac App Store will use a similar update notice method as iOS, it'll be easy to see how many of your apps have updates waiting for you. Instead of having a diverse base of customers all working from different versions, a developer has a good way to entice users to install updates and keep up with the technology.
One of my favorite iOS apps, the 2Do task manager app, has been updated quite a bit since I bought it ages ago. Not only have I been able to slowly learn new features in bite-size chunks, but also the 2Do developers have been able to rapidly push out changes to their user base. And guess what? The more you use an app, and the more it evolves to meet your needs, the more you're going to like it, talk it up, and recommend it to friends.
Sure, there's the potential that the developer might lose some upgrade revenue, but I don't think so: I believe Apple's answer is to simply offer the next generation. iWork '11, for example, is at once an "upgrade" while at the same time Apple treats it like a whole new product.
5. Big Crowd Reviews
What's worse than not having reviews or a "star" rating system? Have no reviews and no ratings at all. How often have you stumbled upon an application or product on a manufacturer's website, only to see an empty spot for user reviews? Doesn't exactly give you the warm fuzzies, does it? Sometimes there's one review, too, and it's one from a truly dissatisfied customer. Well, that doesn't always help either.
The problem is getting a large pool of customers to all review the products, which is when a clearer picture emerges.
The Mac App Store will encourage many customers to review apps, and when they do, most of the time consumers will benefit by seeing common flaws, features that actually work, and the things that are truly rave-worthy.
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.