First announced by Apple in October 2010, the Mac App Store is now open for business. Available as an update through a Mac’s built-in software update or as a download from Apple’s website, it brings the same App Store functionality already familiar to owners of iOS devices to Mac laptops and desktop computers. However, instead of going through iTunes, the update to OS X 10.6.6 places a standalone App Store app in the dock alongside the Finder.
Although it’s a standalone app, the App Store interface will be instantly recognizable to iTunes App Store users with the familiar New & Noteworthy, Staff Favorites, What’s Hot, Top Paid, Top Free and Top Grossing subsections. At launch there are over 1,000 Mac apps available for download in categories including Games, Business, Education, Productivity, Graphics & Design, Utilities and more.
Once signed in with an iTunes ID and password, users can purchase and download apps that are installed automatically with an icon placed in the Dock – meaning that if you find yourself getting a bit app happy, you could quickly find yourself with a Dock bursting at the seams.
While many of the Mac apps on offer are ports of popular iOS apps, you’d have to question how well some of these will make the transition from a touch interface to keyboard and mouse input. Games such as Angry Birds and Flight Control are perfectly suited to the touchscreen interface of iOS devices so probably won’t find the same kind of success on the Mac – although maybe the Apple Magic Trackpad could help in this regard.
Alongside titles from Apple, including members of the iLife and iWork suites and Aperture 3, there are offerings from companies such as Autodesk, Evernote, Omni Group and Pixelmator, not to mention the plethora of apps from smaller developers. However, at launch, apps from some major players, most notably Adobe and Microsoft, were a no show.
With the success of the App Store for Apple’s iOS devices it was inevitable the company would implement some kind of app system for its laptops and desktop computers.
Many see the move to apps as another move away from browsers and the Web to access information online. Back in 1997 Wired predicted the death of the Web browser was imminent thanks to “push” technologies such as PointCast. While that prediction hasn’t been realized, the browser’s share of total internet traffic has been in decline for the past decade with video traffic being the big mover thanks in part to video streaming services such as Netflix.
While not stealing away quite as much traffic, many users now also rely on dedicated apps on mobile devices to deliver just the information they want without having to wade through a website. Instead of accessing a web page overflowing with information, users can now get personally tailored information such as weather, news or sports results for example, in nicely formatted bite-sized chunks.
Whether Apple’s Mac App Store is another nail in the coffin of traditional web browsers remains to be seen, but it’s a near certainty that it will be embraced by Mac users, many of whom are already familiar with the practice of purchasing and using apps through their iDevices. As a result, Apple’s coffers will no doubt benefit nicely.