Maybe it's the unintentional assonance. Or the curious definition of "Back to the Mac" that Steve casually slid into last week's keynote. Or maybe it's because at the first Mac-centric event of the year, no one could stop talking about iOS. Whatever the reason, there’s something about hearing “"Mac App Store" that conjures equal feelings of glee and dread around here.
It's not that we don't welcome a healthy serving of innovation in Apple's ever-shrinking computer segment, but we're always a little skeptical when someone--even Steve--tries to fix something that isn’t broken. Of course, the dedicated App Store might very well be the greatest thing to happen to the Mac since the two-button mouse, and we can certainly see how that could be. But if it’s not, don’t say we didn't warn you.
As much as we hate to see iOS take over our beloved Mac OS, there's no denying the role our iPhones, iPads and iPod touches play in our daily lives. So, while there's already a certain level of cooperation between our Macs and touchscreen devices, iOS-styled OS X apps--or, OS X-styled iOS apps--will undoubtedly bring heightened interaction between mobile and desktop as iPhone and iPad developers bring their talents to the Mac and the line between desk and pocket blurs a little more.
If the Mac App Store is anything like the iPhone App Store, competition will be fierce and developers will be looking for any way to stand out among the field. That's a good thing for us consumers, as apps will not only need to be slick, polished and powerful, but also cheap. Now, we don't expect to see Adobe Photoshop suddenly drop to $9.99, but we think there'll be plenty of bargains to be had once the store opens its doors.
It's not easy being a Mac developer. With a pool barely one-tenth of Windows' installed base, it's not enough to simply build a killer app--they also need to aggressively market said app via Web sites, forums, magazines (ahem) and word of mouth, all the while hoping to land a coveted spot at one of the Apple Stores across the country. With the Mac App Store, all that self-promotion won’t be necessary--or at least not as necessary-- thanks to Apple's handy lists, ratings and spotlights. Which gives developers more time to fine-tune their apps.
Ease of use has always been the calling card of OS X, and the Mac App Store looks to drive that point home: no serial numbers, instruction manuals, clumsy packaging or discs. By taking the effortless experience of the iOS App Store and bringing it to the Mac, Apple will be removing one more level of complication for switchers, which is almost certain to translate into a bigger market share.
Let's face it, there's no better delivery system than the App Store’s nearly instant, one-click purchase and installation process. No more searching for downloaded files, ejecting disk images, trashing dmg files or agreeing to licenses = more time to enjoy our apps.
We Mac users have always cherished our OS over that of our Cocoa-less counterparts, but by no means is it perfect. We doubt that's going to change with Lion, but Apple has already made it clear that it won’t be allowing apps that install kernel extensions or "do not use the appropriate Mac OS X APIs for modifying user data stored by other apps" in its Mac App Store. Of course, Steve assures us that we'll still be able to download FruitMenu or Cocktail the old-fashioned way, but we can’t help thinking we're one or two cats away from an App Store reign of terror.
For every must-have iPhone app, there're about 800 useless ones, from dozens of fart noisemakers to all those misleading "adult" apps. On our iPhone's App Store, it's little more than a nuisance, but when they start getting ported to the Mac, we might have to draw the line. One of the Mac App Store's best features will be the discovery of hidden gems, but if its shelves start filling up with pointless games and utilities, actual developers might turn their back on it altogether.
We might be jumping to conclusions here, but we couldn't help but notice there isn't a restriction against ads in the Mac App Store Review Guidelines--and if developers take the appropriate cues from the iOS store, there're certain to be lots of single-function free and "lite" apps. And how exactly are all these entrepreneurs supposed to make money by giving away their products? Say goodbye to freeware and hello to iAd banners while you work.
Ads. Vuvuzelas. Walls. Virtual pets--the App Store certainly has its flaws. But even if seasoned Mac users and developers can overlook the clutter and the restrictions in the Mac App Store --which won't be easy-- what will all those switchers think when they turn on their iMacs for the very first time? Maybe we're being snobs here, but the last thing we want to see is a commercial that begins with, "Mac is..."
We've all bought iOS apps that we instantly regret (iBeer anyone?), but app purchases for our Macs have always required at least a little research before we commit. Once we have thousands of apps at our fingertips, it's going to take quite a bit of restraint (or credit-card limits) to stop the spending spree. We just hope Mac App Store apps are easy as to uninstall as they are now.