December 07, 2010, 5:31 PM — Apple introduced its iPhone App Store in 2008, and it was an instant success. People began to talk of to a modern-day gold rush as software developers made significant amounts of money selling all kinds of apps, ranging from simple and fun all the way to sophisticated and vital.
The App Store success story surprised many commentators. After all, it was merely a software download service. But they had underestimated Apple. The App Store cleverly emphasized the expandability and utility of Apple devices ("There's an app for that!"), a concept new to the smartphone universe, but the killer blow was tying the App Store into the iTunes ecosystem.
Trusted payment processes were already in place, and users could grab software alongside music and movies. Software was turned into just another electronic commodity, and got rebranded along the way.
Despite this success, which was extended to the iPad, it came as a surprise when Apple announced earlier this year that it would introduce an App Store for its Mac computers. The rumours are that this will see the light of day before Christmas for OS X Snow Leopard version 10.6.
Since the birth of the Mac in the mid-1980s, there's been a healthy shareware scene encouraging the creation of third-party applications. Sites like MacUpdate.com have lead the way. Is a Mac App Store even necessary?
The question is what the Mac App Store can offer that third-party providers don't, or can't.
The first highlight is integration with the Mac operating system, which brings ease of use. Let's not forget that ease of use is supposed to be the Mac's raison d'être--even if, in my experience, Macs tend to be favored by savvy power users.
It will be a piece of cake to find, download, and pay for apps, all without having to open a Web browser window. Absolutely anybody will be able to install apps, including those who don't understand the principles of software installation. This seamlessness is arguably a first for any mainstream operating system; the user will click to download, pay if necessary, and then the app will appear in his or her list of applications.
On the other hand, standalone software installation is uncharacteristically complicated on a Mac, usually involving unpacking and mounting an archive file, and then dragging the application's icon to where you want the program to live on your hard disk.