Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is Apple's Mac App store a game changer?

The Mac App Store is coming in roughly 90 days. Steve is excited, and so are quite a few other people. According to two articles with brief developer interviews on Cult of Mac Most developers are looking forward to it. (1, 2) They also aren't sure exactly how it's going to work into their business strategies, yet, but they're excited about figuring it out.

What does an App store on Mac mean to the rest of us, though? It's hard to say right now, but the idea of high quality software for $0 and up is enticing. The software in the iPhone/iPad app store is generally of high quality. Apple's App review policy ensures that it stays that way.

Will the App store put an end to traditional software distribution? I doubt it. Not in the near future anyway. Apple wants 30% of the apps sale price, which won't fly with companies like Adobe or Microsoft. Not to mention that internet speeds are still slow enough in many places that downloading the installer for something like the Adobe Creative Suite - especially the Master Collection - would take too long for most people. But Adobe and Microsoft may find themselves left in the cold if they continue to push bloated programs that no one can truly master because no one uses most of the 'features' they have. Why spend $150 for a program that does more than you'll ever need if you can spend $20 and get a compatible program that will do everything you do need?

Another good thing for consumers is that Apple's approval process, while flawed, does create a minimum quality that developers won't be allowed to fall below. It will put a dent in shareware on the Mac, if not kill it. Why hunt for shareware of questionable quality when you can go to the app store and download an app you know will at least do what it says, and probably cheaper than a shareware program.

What about competitors? Will Microsoft create an App store for desktop Windows? For all versions? What about Google and the Chrome OS? If they do, will either have an approval process similar to Apple's? I can already answer that last question. They won't. Google's Android has an app store, but there is no review process that I'm aware of. Microsoft won't because it's not in the companies DNA. Steve Jobs has always been a micromanager, at least of projects he's really interested in. He has always wanted to control as much about the Mac's user experience as he can. The App store is one more step to total control.

If successful the Mac App store will have a profound change on software delivery on the Mac, and quickly. It's already having an effect. The effect it will have on other OS's is harder to predict, but unless it totally flops, it will have an effect. If it is as popular as the iPhone app store, Microsoft will have an App store for Windows by Summer 2011 at the very latest. They're probably already working on one. So the Mac App store has kept a few Microsoft software engineers employed for a few more months even if it flops.