It was only a matter of time, but Apple has taken their iOS App Store idea and expanded it from the world of mobile computing and brought it to the desktop. Today, with a new system download, Apple released the Mac App Store. I've downloaded it on my work machine and my Mac Mini, and spent some time playing around on it. Already you see some familiar faces - there's a Twitter client, Angry Birds for Mac, and Evernote (one of my personal favorites). After spending a couples hours navigating the new Mac App Store, I have a few thoughts.
This looks familiar. Indeed, the layout is nearly identical to the iOS App Store in iTunes. Much like the transition of iOS from the iPhone and iPod Touch (when it was called iPhone OS) to include the iPad (which included a name change to iOS), Apple is banking on familiarity with the interface to increase use. If more people use the new Mac App Store, then more developers will publish to it. I don't know for sure, but Apple is probably taking about 20% of the sales revenue for each app, so when you buy an app through the Mac App Store, Apple makes a little money, too.
One thing I really like about it - and that I noticed right off - is that you can use the same login info that you use for the iOS App Store. I don't have to enter new billing information - it's all already there. Also, like on the iOS system, you can share the apps across multiple machines. If I buy an app on my MacMini, I can download it to my wife's MacBook, my MacBook Pro for work, and if I buy a new computer, I can download all of my existing apps to that machine, too. Very cool.
This is a big deal, and it's great for both designers and users. With the apps in one central location, I can find apps that do something that I never even thought of (which is how I discovered Evernote, an app I use heavily all the time), but simply can't live without. For designers, marketing their products become easier, and piracy control improves, as well.
When I buy a program online, it's always a bit of a crap shoot. Will the app do what I want it to do? Is it reliable? Is it buggy? Is it worth the money? What do other people say about it? With the Mac App Store, all of these questions are answered. When you buy an app through the Mac App Store, it has the implicit backing of Apple, Inc. You know that the app will work well, will do what it says it does, and - the best part - you can see user reviews in a centralized location. This is one of my favorite aspects of the iOS App Store, and I'm excited to see it here.
I'd like to see Tabbed Browsing brought to the Mac App Store interface. Sometimes, I just like to browse through the store. I see something that sounds interesting, and I'd like to be able to open it in a new tab and keep browsing. This way, I can compare multiple apps easily and see which one might have the features I'm looking for.
Can I Pleeze Haz Free Tryal?
This is a common lament among iOS users - the inability to try an app for free before buying it. It's something that you see often with apps for the computer. Hopefully this feature will be added to the Mac App Store (as well as the iOS App Store).
I don't know the exact numbers, but the average price for the iOS App Store is somewhere between $3.00 and $5.00. After perusing the Mac App Store, I think the average price is considerably higher. This, I believe, will lead to sticker shock for many users. It may be that designers have priced themselves a little higher and the market will correct it, but everyone knows that computer apps usually cost more than mobile apps. I think the higher prices are here to stay.
UPDATE: According to TUAW:
Apps broadly fall into a few pricing categories. Almost half of the apps in the Mac App Store are in the cheap-and-free sub-$5 bracket; an informal survey reveals a lot of ports of iOS games falling into this area. There's then a bit of a no-mans-land between $5-10; then huge numbers of apps in the $10-50 brackets.
It's worth checking out their analysis. Good stuff.
Again, I don't know the exact price breakdown, but Apple probably takes a 20%-30% cut of the revenues of each sale. My guess is that some designers will balk a little at having to share, but given how easy it is to use, the developers are going to have to learn to swallow that pill and deal with it. Not participating in the Mac App Store would be missing too many potential customers.