Last week Apple took the wraps off the the NEW Mac App Store. The Mac App store aims to bring the ease of finding and installing Apps that users on iDevices have enjoyed, to the Mac desktop. First off the Mac App Store is a part of the Mac OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard update. Once you do your 10.6.6 update the Mac App Store will be on your Dock next to the Finder icon. You launch it like any other application. From there you can browse both free and paid Apps. You can read reviews, see featured and recommended Apps and see screen shots of the Apps. You can also see the system requirements of an App you're interested in. If you decide you want one of the Apps you can click to download it right then and there. This is probably one of the best App installation experiences that the Mac has had. I still run into new/Novice Mac users that don't really feel comfortable downloading and installing software. This is probably because depending on the application the procedure could be different. In the past some Apps you download open up and you have to then drag the Application into the Applications folder to install it. Others have an actual installer that you double click on. After that you're still left with a disc image that's open and mounted and newbies just have no clue as to what they should do next. Unmount it? Trash it? Save it? etc. That all goes away with Apps downloaded from the Mac App Store. The installation process is seamless and happens in the background. You download the App, it installs, places itself on the Dock ready to run and then cleans up after itself. This all happens automatically.
Future application updates
Just like on iDevices, you'll now be able to get all your 3rd party updates in one spot (for Mac App Store downloaded Apps) and those updates will be installed as seamlessly as the original install. Unfortunately these updates will only occur for Apps that you've downloaded via the new Mac App Store. For example, I already have several of the Apps that are in the Mac App Store such as Delicious Library 2, Mac Garage Sale, etc. As far as the Mac App Store is concerned it doesn't know they exist on my system. In some cases with Apple Apps it will will know that they are there. For example, for Keynote '09 it says "Installed". It knows I already have it and I figure that's because it's an Apple app.
A potential shift in the cost of software
One phenomenon that has happened in the mobile space is that consumers don't expect to pay a lot for a mobile App no matter what it does. An iPad App that costs $9.99 is considered to be "expensive". However, a $9.99 App that does the same thing for your Mac would be considered a bargain. Apple is clearly attempting to drive down the cost of software via the Mac App Store by taking the lead on its own Apps and they have lowered the price on all of them. They've also allowed people, for the first time, to buy single Apps that were previously only available via a bundle. Apps like iPhoto and Pages are now available individually. I'm really looking forward to the update to iWork '11. I primarily use Keynote. Now I will be able to go back to buying just Keynote without having to buy Pages and Numbers. This also means instant gratification. The software can be made available to me on day one without having to wait for a box to be shipped to my house.
Buy once and install on many
When I buy an App for my iPhone. I can install it on ALL of my iDevices without buying it again. That's a fundamental shift from desktop software which typically allows for one or two installs per license. Now if you buy an App from the Mac App Store you can legally install it on all of your Macs that are authorized to your Apple ID/iTunes account. Just upgrade to 10.6.6 and download the App again from your Purchases tab, on your other Mac at no additional cost. While this is a positive to consumers, it's definitely a negative to developers and I'm sure will limit the number of some of the higher end Apps from appearing on the Mac App Store.
The Bottom Line
The Mac App Store is a plus for Mac users and a definite plus for smaller Developers. It allows for small developers to reach a broader market by being in front of every new Mac user from here on out. I also will look forward to the simplified updating of my software from here on out. What I'm not sure of though is how many "new" Apps I'll be buying this way? Quite frankly I have all the software on my Mac that I need. I don't often go looking for NEW Mac software. That's quite the opposite on my iDevices where I'm clamoring for new Apps every week. So far I've downloaded two new Apps from the Mac App Store. I downloaded the Free New Twitter App and the New Chopper 2 for Mac (I was already enjoying the game on the iPad). After I got those two I really wasn't very interested in anything else I saw. Time will tell for me. For NEW Mac users, you'll love it! The Mac App Store started out with 1,000 Free and Paid Apps and saw over 1 million downloads in the 1st 24 hours.