Apple’s Mac App Store: A First Look from a Skewed Perspective

When I first heard about Apple’s Mac App Store my initial impression was this was going to be ANOTHER add-on to iTunes which needed it as much as a hole in the head. Thankfully I was wrong and I should have known better since iTunes being cross-platform was certainly not going to host and show Macintosh Apps. For all the talk of neglect toward the Mac last year, many people have forgotten the Golden Rule at Apple. That rules…make gold. Apple does some cross-platform stuff like iTunes and QuickTime, but it still comes down to the fact that Apple is NOT a charity and isn’t in this business to enlighten the masses about better ways to use computers or saving the environment, it’s in this business to make money. Something they’ve shown themselves to be very good at with over 50 billion put aside for a rainy day. So why open an Application Store for the Mac when the bulk of the money spent won’t go to Apple but to the developers who make software for the Mac? Because Apple has learned a few things since first being allowed to sell music on the iTunes Store way back when. What are those things? I’m SO glad you asked. Here it is:

  1. Doing something first isn’t as important as doing something better
  2. Ease of use is more important than feature creep
  3. It’s better to be great at a few things than mediocre at everything
  4. Other people like to make money too
  5. 30% of something is better than 100% of nothing

Let’s go over these in greater detail

1. Doing something first isn’t as important as doing something better.The Mac App Store or App Stores in general is hardly a new concept. Various Linux distros have had repositories for years where you could go and see what applications were available and easily install them. However they usually ONLY worked for the particular distro that it was included with and rarely allowed for actually buying a commercial application. Now this wasn’t all that important since most Linux applications are free, but with the fractured mess that is all the various versions of Linux, having applications that actually work everytime with little to no fiddling about is more important to me than what something costs. No offense intended to all the Linux gear heads out there (but many will take offense anyway). The Mac App Store is better than those previous versions through Linux as it will work with ANY Mac running 10.6.6, the software available is vetted by Apple or its contractors to not be harmful, and darn near everything you might download will actually (GASP!) do what it says it will.

2. Ease of use is more important than feature creep. I said this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek as iTunes (especially on the Windows side) has become more than a little bloated and even with a relatively fast Mac (which I don’t have) you can get the spinning beachball when switching from one part of the program to another. Unfortunately for Apple, in order to make all those iOS devices work as seamlessly as possible all those different services for iPhones, iPads, the iPods of various stripes HAD to be in one place. Could you imagine if you had to open five different programs to sync music, movies, applications, photos, and podcasts? Oh wait…if you aren’t using an iOS device, chances are you DO have to use a few different programs (or drag and drop) to do all that. The Mac App Store on the other hand is just for the Mac and just to deal with applications. We’ll see if Apple can keep from mucking about with the Mac App Store.

3. It’s better to be great at a few things than mediocre at everything. This should be tattooed backwards on the forehead of every maker of anything having to do with technology so when they shave or brush their teeth it’s staring back at them in the mirror. Unfortunately many companies throw features at their hardware and software in an attempt to one up whoever happens to be the leader in whatever field their gizmo or gadget belongs in. It’s why the iPod was never (and now WILL never) be dethroned from being number one. The Mac App Store does a few things great. it’s easy to find the apps you want (from the somewhat limited selection now that will increase probably ten-fold by the end of the year), it’s easy to buy and install those apps, and it’s (kinda) easy to install them on other Macs that you own.

4. Other people like to make money too. Apple is making every single person that owns a Mac and has an iTunes account with a stored credit card available to a lot of developers who prior to the Mac App Store had a hard road to travel to get their apps in front of their potential customer’s eyeballs. Apple is taking care of the marketing, the credit card transactions, the bandwidth, and the store for every developer that signs up. All they ask is 30% and the developers don’t have to make boxed copies that will sit lonely and forlorn until a customer buys it. Apple wins with their customers seeing how much great software is available and future customers finding out just how easy it is to get software (so hopefully they’ll buy a Mac). Developers win because they have to do little more than make their already created software available to a wider audience. Good times all the way around.

5. 30% of something is better than 100% of nothing. Apple was not getting any money for software they didn’t make themselves (outside of sales at the brick and morter Apple Stores), so this is an additional source of revenue. Like they needed it.

The Mac App Store is just starting out and like most first versions of anything there are a few hiccups. I had some problems getting apps that I had bought to load onto another Mac that I own. A very unhelpful error message would appear telling me almost nothing. It did work the next day though so some bugs are already being worked out. The app also automatically puts the program’s icon in my OS X Dock which I find annoying but I guess some people might prefer it that way. The app also is aware of some (but oddly not all) of the apps I already have installed that are in the store. From what I’ve been told, these apps will not update when newer versions come out and this is not good. If I already HAVE a version of the app that I’ve paid for, why not let me download it from the Mac App Store so that when updates do come out I can use all the mac App Store goodness to keep them fresh?

There are some security concerns out on the web already talking about how the Mac App Store has been “Cracked”. Now I’m no Mac security expert, but most of these seem to be along the lines of the receipts generated when you buy or download an app. Some developers didn’t do their homework and apparently you can cut and paste this receipt to get the app for free. Angry Birds developers was the example I’ve seen out there. The other security concern is that whoever offers you this “free” software could replace it with a malicious app. Naturally many die-hard Apple haters are jumping on this bandwagon with lots of “See SEE! Apple isn’t secure!” completely ignoring the fact that if you only download directly from the Mac App Store you don’t have to worry about this. Much to do about nothing which is still typical when it comes to potential Mac security concerns.

Keep in mind that this is still version one and naturally there’s going to be a few bumps in the road along the way. Overall, I give the Mac App Store a thumbs up and look forward to what might be next.

2 thoughts on “Apple’s Mac App Store: A First Look from a Skewed Perspective

  1. Great article, Guy. My only comment is about #4…

    The big box shipping guys really don’t need an app store to sell product anyway (Adobe, Microsoft, etc), and the people that do need the app store to get their product in front of more people tend to be indies who generally don’t ship a box but have downloadable software.

    So to me, it seems that they will go to a situation where they potentially have more eyes on their product (how many people’s parents ever bought any indie software?) but will suddenly be losing 30% on each sale compared to previously. It’ll take a few more sales to make up that difference.

    Also, I can’t really see some of the big names being willing to give Apple 30% of something like Photoshop, etc.

    It’ll be interesting to see how it pays off for developers. Regardless, it will increase people finding more 3rd party software, and probably more sales of 3rd party software in general as well.

    One other thing I like about it is that Apple now has lowered the price on such apps as Aperture 3, and you can buy the iLife apps separately for $15 now. Even if you buy iPhoto, iMovie, and Garageband, it’s still less than the $79 it used to cost to buy iLife on disc.

  2. Thanks for the nice words Scott. However while the big boys won’t play now, you can bet they’re eyeing this with great interest. Microsoft for probably making their own App Store and Adobe for…well why would Adobe find the App Store interesting? Apple makes money from both hardware and software and the software side doesn’t really generate the kind of cash the hardware does and that’s OK. It’s how Apple wants it. The software is the hook to get you to buy the hardware. Adobe just makes money on software. The days where they can just throw out a product and people will rush to Amazon or Best Buy to get it are coming to an end and the Mac App Store is another nail in the coffin. They need Mac users to buy their products especially the Elements ones which most likely far outstrip sales of CS-whatever. With the Mac App Store a lot of more casual users will be exposed to software that does much of what Adobe’s products do at a much cheaper price. Now throw in reviews from these users. Adobe can’t afford to NOT be in the Mac App Store with their Elements products the question is how long will it take them to figure this out.

    Here’s my prediction. Adobe will have some of their products (maybe even Premeire or Photoshop Elements) BEFORE the end of 2011.

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