Sure those two ultra-slim MacBook Airs are sexy, but the most important part of Apple CEO Steve Job’s “Back to the Mac” presentation came minutes before, when the Apple CEO unveiled the Mac App Store the first-ever App Store for desktop and laptop computers. I could almost hear the collective groan from software vendors and a certain company in Redmond.
“This changes everything.” rolled through my head as I heard Jobs explain the new world of desktop applications. All the “benefits” of apps on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch would arrive on your Mac desktop. Things that those of us who use Apple’s portable devices take for granted, like remembering where you were when you open the app again (auto save and resume), one-click downloads, auto-installation and even auto-updates would all become natural parts of the desktop and laptop operating system.
It’s not like we didn’t see this coming. The App Store metaphor for finding, buying and using applications has been wildly successful. For a time, people would dismiss the App Store paradigm as only appropriate for mobile Apps. Even the somewhat diminutive “App” name gave credence to the idea that these weren’t full blown applications, anyway. Having an App Store for real products on real desktop systems seemed ridiculous. The wild success of Apple’s iPad and introduction of more and more “HD” apps that run full screen and offer more and more functionality (think Pages and SketchBook Pro) helped us realize that there are no limits when it comes to Apps. Apple has successfully convinced thousands of developers to work its way when it comes to Apps and the App Store. Apple vets the products, manages the commerce and updates and collects 30% of all profits. Can you imagine any of this flying with software vendors like Adobe and Microsoft? Don’t imagine, because it’s already happening. My iPad, for example has Photoshop Express. Granted, this is from a full-featured image editor, but the fact that Adobe decided to work with Apple to get this app into the App Store speaks volumes.
he official introduction of Mac App Store signals the beginning of the end for traditional software-buying methods. This is more revolutionary than the transition from boxed to online downloadable software. Apple is trying to become the software czar for, essentially, every class of software. Ultimately, Apple hardware users will cease searching online for a useful Mac-friendly application or utility. The latter, by the way, will be among the first to join the Mac App Store party. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get noticed online? You have this little piece of code you and your team built for the Mac. You have to brand it, market it, try and get the word out through viral networks. You hope for a good review or two and some external links and, mostly word of mouth. Even then, you probably have to give away the utility. Just as in the mobile space, the Mac App Store will be the great equalizer. This highly organized application store gives everyone a chance to be noticed. It’s curated, manageable and almost promises quality—or at least control. Sure, if you charge, you’ll have to share a chunk of your revenue with Apple, but without them, it’s unlikely you would have made any money anyway.
However, utilities are the easy and obvious entrants in this new Mac App Store. What about the big boys? Microsoft, which just released the extraordinary Office for the Mac 2011, must be gnashing its teeth right now. I cannot imagine any Redmond exec has any interest in folding the Office Suite into the Mac App Store or having Microsoft’s software products vetted by Apple. Would Microsoft, or Adobe even consider the 70/30 revenue split? I doubt it, but they may have to. When Steve Jobs unveiled the Mac App Store, he talked about the ease of downloads, auto-updates and even the somewhat radical idea of being able to use downloaded applications on all of your personal Macs (no need to purchase additional licenses). However, he didn’t say much of anything about the kinds of products that might ultimately appear in the Mac App Store. Should Mac users, for example, expect access to all 300,000 existing Apps? Will the new store separate desktop and mobile apps? Could you, for instance, run the iPhone version of Angry Birds on your new MacBook Air? My guess is you could.
When the Mac App Store opens for consumer business early next year, I expect it will, eventually, be a wild success. I say eventually, because the true power of the Mac App Store can’t be realized without the Mac OS 10 Lion update, which transforms the Mac Desktop into a Mac/iPad hybrid. The gesture-friendly, App-ready interface, complete with a new LaunchPad for managing it all takes desktop computing to a whole new level. Around that same time next year, we should be learning something about Microsoft’s plans for Windows 8. As of this moment, Apple has put Microsoft on notice: The traditional way of managing the desktop and applications is dead. Microsoft should be readying its response today.