Mac App Store a good idea -- but we don't need a benevolent dictator
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Mac App Store a good idea -- but we don't need a benevolent dictator

I'm looking forward to the Mac App Store when it debuts next week. But I'm also hoping it doesn't become the only -- or even the main -- source of software for the Mac.

The Mac App Store will launch on Jan. 6 for Mac OS X 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") and will be built into next summer's Mac OS X Lion. By bringing the Apple App Store experience to Mac OS X, the Mac App Store makes discovering, installing and updating Mac apps easier than ever, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The Mac App Store will be available in 90 countries at launch and will feature paid and free apps in categories like Education, Games, Graphics & Design, Lifestyle, Productivity and Utilities.

Purchased apps can run on all of your personal Macs and updates are delivered directly through the Mac App Store. so it will be able to keep all of your apps up-to-date. For users who need consumer level apps and don't want to have to deal with DMG files, update notifications, etc., this will be a great thing.

Mac developers set the price for their apps, keep 70% of the sales revenue (Apple gets the other 30%), aren't charged for free apps and don't have to pay hosting, marketing or credit card fees. That should be a great thing for smaller developers who don't have big bucks for marketing and/or promotional campaigns. In other words, the Mac App Store should do for some Mac developers what the Apple App Store has done for many iOS developers: make 'em some substantial money.

On the downside, Apple will put every app submitted in the Mac App Store through its sometimes-infamous approval process. Apple won't allow -- at least for now -- demo versions, in-app purchases or product keys in the Mac App Store. Additionally, Apple will only consider "fully functional, retail versions," and it won't allow kernel extensions, private APIs [application programming interfaces], or apps that request root user privileges.

Meanwhile, as Apple prepares to launch the Mac App Store next month, a rival effort is underway. Cydia (http://cydia.saurik.com) -- a popular app store alternative destination for the estimated 10% of owners of jailbroken iPhones -- is planning a competitor. All the things that Apple won't allow in the Mac App Store will be purportedly allowed at Cydia. Competition is good.

I wouldn't expect "big" apps like Photoshop and Office to be available on the Apple store anytime soon. The Mac App Store rules "show that Apple isn't interested in migrating the existing base of OS X apps, but instead wants to grow a base of small scale developers around the Mac platform," notes "Computer Resellers News" (http://macte.ch/). The article adds that "that there's a fair amount of trepidation in the Mac developer ranks over Apple's forthcoming Mac App Store," though "Apple resellers are confident that it'll add more value to the Mac platform."

Nick Gold, director of business development at Chesapeake Systems, a US-based Apple partner, told "CRN" that Apple's restrictions will essentially block higher end software from the Mac App Store. "It won't meet the guidelines, but people will go there for smaller scale apps, and I think it will end up being a value-add for the Apple platform," he adds.

Gold told "CRN" that some developers are concerned that Apple will be dumbing down the Mac platform, turning it into an appliance and becoming the sole distribution channel for Mac software. However, he doesn’t believe Apple has these goals in mind.

"Apple is aiming for users that want buying, downloading, installation and management of desktop Mac software to be as easy as possible," he says. "It's a new venue for certain developers to get software in front of more eyes."

Marc Wolfe, CEO of Proactive, an Apple specialist in US, also sees the Mac App Store as an expansion on what Apple has already done with the Apple App Store. "You can't leave the millions of desktops alone when you already have something that’s working and bringing tighter integration on the mobile side," he told "CRN."

I understand the reasoning behind the Mac App Store -- and think that, essentially, it is a great idea, and one that will be good for the Mac.

But let's hope that alternative means to obtain Mac software abound. After all, even if Apple were a benevolent dictator at the Mac App Store, we don't need a dictator at all.

-- Dennis Sellers

 

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