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Mac App Store – First Impressions

January 6, 2011


The Mac App Store opened this morning, and I have been waiting for this day with much anticipation. It’s widely accepted that the IOS (iPhone Operating System) App Store is the number one reason that the iPhone (and Apple as a whole) has done so well these last few years, and obviously Apple isn’t oblivious to this fact. The Mac App Store incorporates many of the successful elements of the IOS App Store, primarily it’s simplicity in finding, downloading, and maintaining Apps. Though it’s only been open for a few hours, I have already had the chance to download several Apps, and will review the experience thus far.

Finding Apps
Finding new apps in the IOS App Store has always been a mixed bag; those Apps featured on the front page or the top ten list are easily found and promoted, while many of the less popular apps tend to fall through the cracks. All evidence supports that this will likely be the case with the Mac App Store; I’ve downloaded a couple of apps that I have never heard or previously, but I did so because they were on the Top Ten List. The nice thing about the App Store, however, is that it encourages browsing. Never before has their been such a user-friendly method to browse through thousands of Mac apps, and I will probably check back every few days just to browse apps, similar to what I do with the IOS App Store.

Purchasing Apps
The genius of the IOS App Store lies in it’s encouragement of impulse buying, and this is due to the iTunes account. The Mac App Store continues in this tradition; just a password is all that stands between you and your app. The Mac App Store also works with iTunes credit; I received some iTunes gift cards for Christmas, and the credit applied to my Mac Store purchases. Think about it, with an iTunes account you can now buy music, movies, books, magazines, iPhone apps, and Mac apps, all without re-entering your credit card or billing info. Ease of use at it’s best.

Downloading Apps
Downloading an app is also similar to the IOS Store. Upon clicking “download”, the app’s icon flies down to your dock, and a progress bar keeps you posted as it downloads. I installed Pages (you can buy it separately now) and then wanted to install it on my second computer. I simply clicked on the “Purchases” tab in the Mac App Store, then hit “Download” next to Pages. The process of installing your apps on a second machine is just as simple as downloading it in the first place, which greatly decreases the dread of getting a new computer.

Maintaining Apps
One of the major highlights of the Mac App Store is that it makes serial numbers a thing of the past; never again will I have to spend an hour trying to remember where my serial number is or how to access it. The Mac App Store approaches software updates similar to the iPhone App Store; a simple “Updates” tab in the store assures that you never again will miss an update or install that update sloppily.

A few hours into it’s life, I can see the Mac App Store becoming a fantastic success. Though it will likely face some growing pains in terms of pricing (app prices are currently pretty random), over time I think that the Mac App Store will influence the Apple computer market the same way the the IOS App Store has influenced the iPhone market. It’s simplicity and speed is a much welcome change from the days of endless Google searches and serial number; I can really see the Mac App Store breathing some much needed life back into the Mac platform.
9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeff permalink
    January 6, 2011 1:54 pm

    Nice review, but I have one concern that many people won’t have. I do not illegally download software but I am concerned about my privacy. Is the mac app store another way for apple to ‘control’ what you put on your computer? By me installing the mac app am I giving Apple permission to know about all the apps I have installed on my computer? Eventually will Apple force everyone to install using their store. I just don’t want this to become a controlled and locked down and policed environment like the iPhone is. Your thoughts?

    • January 6, 2011 2:02 pm

      That is a concern that I have heard from several people, and it’s definitely an interesting thought. Sure, right now Apple insists that you don’t “have to” use the Mac App Store (unlike the IOS App Store), but in all reality how long do you think that option will exist? Personally I think your concerns are justified; as much as I love the Mac App Store already, I could absolutely see the day when the Mac OS is “locked” similar to the way the iPhone ecosystem is. Steve Jobs and company are obsessed with creating a “controlled” experience for the user, and it’s probably only a matter of time before increased control shows it’s face on the Mac OS.

      This review, however, focuses more on the current implementation of the Mac App Store, which I believe is a fantastic option for discovering and buying software. As of right now I feel that it’s wonderful, and the only thing we can do is address future concerns with a “locked down” OS when (if) they come. Holding out on using the Mac App Store out of principle probably won’t do a whole lot to stop the success of the store; quite frankly there are just too many users that are already flocking to it.

      • Jason Lockwood permalink
        January 8, 2011 8:41 am

        Nice review. I’m finding the App Store useful myself. I only take issue with the following:

        “Steve Jobs and company are obsessed with creating a ‘controlled’ experience for the user, and it’s probably only a matter of time before increased control shows it’s face on the Mac OS. ”

        The problem with that statement is there’s no way to verify it. One can use words like obsession and control, but they don’t have any meaning in reality. Jobs and Apple have had the same approach to computing since their beginnings in the 1970s: create machines that are elegantly designed, simple to use and don’t require much maintenance. If you’re more of a tinkerer and don’t like the “eco-system” model that Apple promotes, then you have plenty of options available. It’s got nothing to do with these scary emotions people assign to them. It’s a business strategy that has worked well for Apple and its many millions of satisfied customers.

        Now, if Apple decides that the only way to install programs in the future is via the App Store, then that is their business choice. It’s way too early to speculate on that, and if it does comes to pass, it will only be after the App Store has become the de facto standard for buying and installing apps.

        I think many people misunderstand what Apple is providing. They get derided for not including SD slots on iPads or expandable memory or a whole host of other technical features. My short answer to those people is: it’s not about the features. It’s about the value people get from Apple products. Personally, my productivity has gone way up since switching to Macs some years ago, so I am more than happy to give up features in favour of function.

      • January 8, 2011 10:59 am

        Thank you for your fantastic comments! I also agree that many people misunderstand what Apple is providing through their computers and other devices; Apple doesn’t care about feature grids or direct speed tests, they care about usefulness and the experience in everyday situations. To go back to the analogy of the car, I am not the kind of person that wants to “soup up” my car or tinker with it, so I got a Toyota Corolla. Many people say that Corolla’s “run forever” with minimal upkeep, and that’s exactly why I love Macs. I don’t want to constantly be tinkering with the internals or installing glowing lights, so Macs are perfect for me. They have enabled me to get much more work done as well.

        I have heard people say that one one of the brilliancies of Apple is not what features they put into their computers, but what features they omit. They pay special attention to only putting in features that will IMPROVE the experience, rather than just packing them in so that their computers look good in a side by side comparison.

  2. January 7, 2011 3:14 pm

    Great post!

    I think the Mac App Store is a great idea. While there may be some issues I also think there are great opportunities for both time savings for users and distribution opp for smaller developers.

    Here’s my first look at it:

    (please remove the first post, I hit send in error too quickly)

    • January 7, 2011 3:16 pm

      Thank you very much! I enjoyed your look at the store as well. Time will tell how successful it ends up being, but I am anticipating quite a bit of success.

  3. January 7, 2011 10:36 pm

    I amazed at the paranoia over Apple locking down the app store. They know there would be a riot and and a mass exodus from Macs if they did that.

    As most simple apps (not the Final Cut, Solidworks or Photoshops) approach mass consumer pricing the desire for piracy will decline. There are many serious quality apps for $15 or $30, and you can buy once and install on all your machines.

    My main gripe with the App store is that it’s not on Leopard…

    • January 8, 2011 10:47 am

      That is a very good point about pricing vs. piracy. Even Aperture, which up until a few days ago was priced at $200, will likely face much less piracy now that the price is more “reasonable” for most folks.

      That is a disappointment that it is not on Leopard; I am running Snow Leopard but sometimes whish that I didn’t upgrade.

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