This morning Apple launched the Mac App Store. It is like the iTunes App Store but for Macs. Apparently, Apple have discovered the revolutionary notion that ‘apps’ can work on non-mobile computers.
I’ve tried it and it works as advertised. It is just like the App Store on the iPad and even utilises your iTunes account so all you need to do is enter a password and you are off. I was downloading free apps like crazy.
The benefits of all this are several fold. First, it is really easy to discover new apps. Unless you are monitoring software blogs, it is hard to know what is out there. The App Store front page makes it easy. Second, all updates are handled through the App Store so no more annoying ‘check for updates’ every time you launch some piece of software. Third, Apple approve these apps. That means someone there has run them and you are much more certain it won’t do something silly (like crash your computer) or something sinister (like upload your data to some crazy person). Given what the internet carries these days, this is going to inspire a lot of confidence. I may even let the kids download software without my approval. Finally, you can install all of the apps on any Mac you own. No more annoying family licenses or re-entering information if you get a new Mac.
But here is the interesting thing: Apple are ‘charging’ developers 30% of the sale price for selling apps through their store. This is great for free software distributors but for other developers it is more interesting. Unlike the iOS apps, Apple does not have control here. As a developer you can still distribute apps from your own site and pay Apple nothing. So why would you do it? Moreover, Apple have not changed the developer share to take this into account relative to what they offer for iOS.
I did a quick check and most of the key apps are offered at the same price through the App Store and the developer’s own site. One exception was Kid Pix Deluxe 3D which is $39.95 on the App Store and $49.95 direct from the developer (although that comes physically on DVD).
Anyhow, it will be very interesting to see how this goes. If Apple can succeed with this model on the Mac it suggests that it was not their control that was an issue for developers but instead what you pay any retailer for — bring you more customers.
Update: More evidence on pricing discounts in the App Store.
Disclaimer: Joshua Gans is a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research. All opinions here are his own.