First Look: Apple's new Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
A Mac App Store
The idea of Apple bringing its iOS App Store concept to the Mac has been widely anticipated as a step that would make it easier for users to find and install software, keep their software up to date, greatly reduce software theft (thereby allowing developers to charge less while enjoying higher volumes of sales, just as they have in the iOS App Store) and encourage a rich economy of software development on the Mac in the same way the App Stores for the iPhone and iPad have.
The fear however, voiced by some, is that such a store would prevent Mac users from obtaining software from other sources, prevent the use of older software titles that were not designed to be sold through the store, and perhaps result in new issues over Apple's level of control over Mac software, much as some have worried that Apple is already exercising too much control over its iOS App Store.
To extinguish these fears, Jobs noted that the new Mac App Store won't be the only way to obtain new software; it will only be a new option, "the best," Jobs said. This also means there won't be any issue with running older, existing software that wasn't designed for distribution thorough Apple's store.
While Apple has strict guidelines for App Store titles (in part because it has to preserve its relationships with carriers, and also because it wants to mold and control the initial development of iOS), it appears the company will have a much more liberal approach to approving Mac software titles. Even if it does not, developers will be able to continue to sell their software outside of the Mac App Store, something that's not an option on iOS devices.
Apple surprised the audience by noting that the Mac App Store is such a priority that it won't be waiting for Mac OS X Lion to ship (currently planned for the summer of 2011) before deploying the store; it expects to accept the first Mac App Store titles next month, and have the store operational in 90 days for current Snow Leopard users.
Jobs demonstrated the store behaving very similar to the iOS App Stores embedded into iTunes, although the Mac App Store exists as a standalone program. The library shows top ten lists of Mac apps by popularity and revenue, and presents a familiar listing of the apps' features, screen shots, and users' comments.
When an app is selected for purchase, an animated app icon jumps from the Mac Store into the Dock, where it loads with a progress bar. Once the download is complete, the app is ready to use without any additional installation steps such as entering a license key. The app is automatically licensed for personal use on any of the individual's Macs.
Prices for Mac apps in the new App Store are likely to be higher than simpler iOS apps, but the demo store that Apple showed presented the company's own apps at about the same price they now sell for as part of the iWork and iLife bundles: $19.95 for Pages and $14.99 for iMovie, for example. It also listed a variety of fictitious placeholder apps including "Color Studio" for $29.99, a "Fast Lane" game for $4.99, "Clipboard" for $2.99, "Quantum" for $39.99, and a variety of free apps.
Actual prices will obviously depend on how developers approach the new Mac App Store, but it appears Apple will continue to encourage developers to charge something for their apps but not so much so as to discourage volume sales. Low priced, high volume sales has resulted in great success for the iOS App Store, something other mobile software stores have been unable to match.
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