Apple Opens Mac App Store... Meanwhile, at CES...
Apple is notably absent from CES, which has been dominating the tech world's headlines since it kicked off on Wednesday, so the timing of its Mac App Store opening may be intended to turn the focus away from Las Vegas to Cupertino -- at least for a moment. Packed as it is with new Androids, CES represents "the most severe threat to Apple's current position," said Pund-IT analyst Charles King from the show floor.
Apple opened the virtual doors of its Mac App Store on Thursday as scheduled.
There are more than 1,000 free and paid apps in the store, the vendor claims. These apps will run on Mac OS X v10.6.6.
Prices range from about US$15 to about $80.
Meanwhile, AT&T also announced on Thursday that it's slashing the price of the iPhone 3GS to $49.
There's speculation that the two companies coordinated their announcements to steal some thunder from the Consumer Electronics Show, which is being held in Las Vegas this week.
Window Shopping at the Mac App Store
The Mac App Store is available now as a software update for any Mac running Mac OS X Snow Leopard. To update the OS, users have to open the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the Mac screen; choose "Software Update," and follow the instructions.
For easy browsing, Mac App Store is divided into categories including games, education, graphics and design, productivity and lifestyle. Users can also search the store for a specific app. They will be able to read developer descriptions and user reviews, and flip through screenshots.
Apps include iPhoto; iMovie and GarageBand from Apple's iLife 11 suite, offered individually at about $15 each. Pages, Keynote, and Numbers apps from iWork are available individually at about $20 each. Apple's Aperture 3 photo editing and management package is available at about $80.
Other apps include "Compartments," a home inventory app; the "Flight Control HD" game; "LittleSnapper," a tool that takes and catalogs screenshots, Web shots and screen captures of Web pages; the "Pixelmator" image editor; and "SketchBook Pro," a digital sketchpad app.
How to Use the Mac App Store
Users who want to download an app from the store enter the same iTunes password they use to buy music and apps on their iOS devices.
The Mac App Store keeps track of users' apps and notifies them when updates are available. Users can update one app at a time or update all apps that need it at the same time.
Users can install apps on every Mac they use and download them again if they buy a new Mac and want to install apps they already own.
Bite-Sized Packages for Buyers
The Mac App Store is "a very clever move on Apple's part," Andrew Eisner, director of community and content at Retrevo, told MacNewsWorld. "Apple's just repackaging applications and taking advantage of the fact that it has people's credit cards."
Still, the idea may go over well with consumers.
"I think people like the idea of bite-sized easy transactions," Eisner remarked. "Apple now has small, medium and large apps for smartphones, tablets and Macs, and the apps will be priced accordingly."
In the long run, Apple might unbundle applications from the Mac OS and offer them solely on the Mac App Store so that Mac owners can get only the apps they need, speculated Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"That would likely position Apple as helping to maximize customer choice," King suggested. This unbundling would likely be principally aimed at consumers, although it might be extended to business users.
Apple might port some of the apps for its iOS devices to the Mac, Eisner speculated. "They know software moves hardware."
Might Apple take things one step further and eventually create just one operating system for its laptops, desktops, and mobile devices?
"I suppose that's possible, but it would require processors capable of delivering notebook-quality performance with tablet-style battery life," Pund-IT's King told MacNewsWorld.
"Not any time soon, in other words," he added.
Sucking the Wind out of CES?
The timing of Apple's Mac App Store opening on Thursday, along with AT&T's iPhone 3GS price-slashing on the same day, sparked speculation that the two companies moved in tandem to draw some attention away from the Consumer Electronics Show, where the latest Android-based smartphones and tablets are making their debut.
"That's a reasonable assumption," Pund-IT's King said. "Despite not attending CES, Apple is a huge force here in the form of accessories for its iPhone and other devices."
Cupertino needs to fly the flag during CES because the show "represents the most severe threat to Apple's current position through vendors displaying a wide variety of powerful and attractive phones, tablets and media devices," King pointed out. "So Apple doing whatever it can to divert attention from CES seems a wise move."
However, Retrevo's Eisner isn't so sure that AT&T is in on the deal. After all, Radio Shack and Best Buy slashed prices for the iPhone 3GS in December.
"Sure, anybody in Apple's camp will try to distract attention from CES, but gee, a two-year-old phone for $49? That's new?" Eisner asked. "This kind of old technology won't do it."