Apple Talk: App Store brings happy shopping to Mac users

Picking new apps is about to become more enjoyable for Mac users...

Apple has learned from the success of its iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Fortunately for Mac users, those lessons are about to be applied to them, says Seb Janacek.

The announcement of the Mac App Store at October's Apple event got me more excited than the preview of the Lion operating system or even the unveiling of the new MacBook Air.

I've been thinking about my reaction and the best way I can describe it is that the Mac App Store has made the prospect of buying computer software interesting.

The MacBook Airs are very nice and the fleeting preview of Lion makes the prospect of a new and substantial update, albeit sometime in the distant future, something to look forward to.

Yet, the news that the Mac App Store could offer me the chance to purchase the latest version of Pages, without having to buy the other two programs in Apple's iWork suite, is genuinely interesting and given its imminent launch all the more exciting. Whether Microsoft will let me purchase Excel without Word, PowerPoint and Entourage - Outlook for Mac - is a different matter.

Apple innovations applied to the Mac
The Back to the Mac theme of the event was about taking innovations the company has developed with iOS devices and reimagining them for the Mac. There's little doubt that the App Store has been one of the platform's most resounding success stories.

The Mac App Store will borrow many of the features from the iOS App Store. It will let customers download and install apps with just one click. Furthermore, just like the iTunes arrangement, developers will take a 70 per cent cut of sales while Apple pockets 30 per cent.

Apple's Snow Leopard operating system

The Mac App Store will be available only for the two most recent Mac OS X releases, Snow Leopard, shown here, and Lion
(Photo credit: Apple)

The Mac App Store will predictably be available only for users of the company's two most recent Mac OS X releases, Lion and Snow Leopard, and therefore Intel-only Macs too. PowerPC users have had their day.

In the heyday of the iPhone and the rise of the iPad, it's easy to forget the Mac, yet it represents about a third of Apple's revenues - a $22bn business over the last financial year, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

The big difference between the Mac and iOS platforms is that the developers will not be tied to the Mac App Store alone to sell their wares: it will complement the traditional channels to market. Jobs said the App Store will simply be another option for both developers and users - at least for the time being.

The Mac App Store will be viewed in very different ways by developers and consumers, offering the developers opportunities and concerns, and consumers even greater choice and ease of use.

Mixed bag for developers
The big opportunity for developers is that third-party software will be available for purchase through a store front integrated with the Mac at a system level.

The Mac App Store will sit by default in the Dock, hugely valuable real estate on the Mac's desktop. Click the icon and you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd opened the iTunes App Store.

The iTunes app model has proven phenomenally successful with about 300,000 apps available and over seven billion downloads. Why not see if it can be taken back to the Mac? Clicking on an app to buy it and the file flies into the Dock and installs on the computer. "Super simple," as one of the Apple demonstrators repeated like some sacred Cupertino mantra.

Yet despite the obvious benefits there are concerns for the Mac...