January 06, 2011, 1:59 PM — On Thursday Apple opened the Mac App Store, releasing a software update for Snow Leopard that allows Mac users to buy software using the same mechanisms they use to buy iOS apps and media via iTunes.
To enable the Mac App Store, Snow Leopard users will need to update to Mac OS X 10.6.6, either by using the Mac's built-in Software Update or via a download from Apple's Website. Apple said the update would roll out to users beginning at 5:30 a.m. Pacific.
"The [iOS] App Store really revolutionized the way you acquired apps on a mobile platform... we think there's a really great opportunity to do the exact same thing on the Mac," Eddy Cue, Apple Vice President of Internet Services, told Macworld.
Announced by Apple in October, the Mac App Store lets Mac users discover and purchase apps, though some familiar Mac software won't be available due to the store's exacting requirements. According to Apple, more than a thousand apps will be available initially, including many of Apple's own iWork and iLife apps, as well as apps from vendors such as AutoDesk, Evernote, Omni Group, Pixelmator, and many others.
Once Mac OS X 10.6.6 is installed, users will find a new App Store app in the Dock, right next to the Finder. This new app, rather than iTunes, is the conduit to the store. But while the Mac App Store isn't within iTunes like its iOS counterpart, it sports an interface that will otherwise be quite familiar to any iOS user.
The Mac App Store streamlines the process of purchasing Mac software: you buy the software with one click while using an iTunes ID and password. Apps are downloaded and installed automatically, including automatic placement in the Dock. And shopping for apps also has an iTunes flair, including charts for the top free, paid, and top-grossing apps as well as browsing by category.
Among the apps being sold in the Mac App Store as of Thursday are seven made by Apple, including members of the iLife and iWork bundles as well as Aperture 3. These apps will all be sold individually for prices ranging from $15 (for iLife apps) and $20 (for iWork apps) to $79 (for Aperture).
Some major Mac software vendors, notably Microsoft and Adobe, aren't present in the Mac App Store on day one. It's unclear whether Apple will work with those developers to bring their more complex installation and licensing procedures into the Mac App Store, or if it will be incumbent on those companies to modify their approaches in order to fit the Mac App Store's guidelines.