BitDepth 766 - January 25

Apple opens another App Store, this one just for its Macintosh operating system.
Another Apple software store opens
Apple’s new Mac App Store brings the convenience and speed of their iTunes store to the company’s Macintosh computer systems.

On January 07, Apple opened its newest online store, the Mac App Store, which offers Macintosh users the same streamlined shopping experience that iOS device users have when buying their software.
The new store and the software to access it, were both introduced almost exactly 10 years after Apple hammered in their first stake in computer based entertainment with iTunes, the music player that drove the company’s strategy in media.

There was some immediate buzz around the introduction of the new store, when it was discovered that a fairly simple hack allowed pirates to use software downloaded from the store anywhere they pleased.
The issue was traced back to some errant code in a few poorly prepared products which didn’t follow the guidelines for sales on the store laid down by Apple.

That’s one of the first strikes against the store, which won’t be carrying any software that messes around with the Mac operating system in ways that Apple doesn’t like. Unfortunately, that’s going to leave out at least half of the neat little shareware products I use, which make liberal use of undocumented and officially off-limits bits of the Mac OS.
There’s also something a bit unnerving about Apple reaching out to take control of yet another part of the Macintosh ecosystem and enforcing rules about what developers can and cannot do there.

There’s at least one alternative currently available to Apple’s new store,
Bodega and it’s both functional, albeit less sleek than Apple’s store and it’s open for business. Expect more activity on Bodega and on other sites dedicated to distributing software and updates as developers locked out of the Apple’s software store begin to patronise alternatives.
But the benefits for developers signing up with Apple are equally tempting.

The company takes over the entire sales process for participating developers and there appear to be more benefits for those who sign up exclusively with the store. Apple takes a 30 percent cut of sales in the US and 40 percent in other countries. For small developers who prefer to work on their products than oversee a virtual cash register, this could be a big win.

The creators of products that prove popular will find that the benefits are even better, since those get featured more prominently, a phenomenon that has reaped real results on Apple’s ios store, where dubious strategies to get software featured have become almost legendary.
Rovio, the creators of the popular mobile game Angry Birds has cleared US$4.5 million on the iOS store and the simple but addictive game currently holds the top selling spot on the Mac App Store as well. 

Evernote, after seeing 90,000 downloads of the basic (and free) version of its notetaking software from the store in the first week of availability has announced that it is rethinking how the product is used on the Mac desktop.
But there are many major developers who aren’t in the store at all. There’s no Adobe and no Microsoft software to be found and Apple’s professional apps, with the exception of Aperture, which is heavily discounted by 65 percent, are entirely absent.

For users, the benefits are even more obvious.
One of the most confusing things for new Macintosh users is using disk images. Most online Mac software is packaged in a virtual disk image, which mounts like a drive on the desktop, from which the user is expected to either run an installer or move the software to the system’s applications folder.
It’s a notable Achilles heel in the normally straightforward Mac interface, since many users just run the software off the disk image, ignoring the eternally mounted drive on the desktop.

Buy an app from Apple’s online store and the graphic of the software jumps off the page and into the dock, where it displays a download progress bar. The store marks it as installed and keeps track of updates, which are equally easy to apply.
Many developers, noting the success of moderately priced software on the iOS store for iPhones and iPads have dropped their prices on the Mac App Store.

Apple’s license arrangements with developers also require that users be able to download anything they purchase to every device they own, which reduces software costs even more for users with multiple Macs.
The biggest challenge facing users will be updating their OS to the newest version, 10.66, which installs the software that enables access to the store. 
Anyone who isn’t running Snow Leopard (10.6) is going to have to buy a copy and upgrade to use the store and any Mac incapable of running the new OS is automatically locked out of the store, whether or not it can run the software offered for sale on it.

Pickings were somewhat slim at the launch, with just 1,000 products available (the iOS store has 400,000) and T&T users will have to figure out how to pay for software that’s needlessly tied to Apple’s geographically zoned iTunes payment system, which is linked to the demands of movie and song distributors.

It’s possible to create an account without a credit card tied to it and pay using iTunes gift cards, but that’s a lot of work just to grab a copy of Angry Birds.
In the short run, users who have a favorite product that’s gone Mac App Store exclusive will have to grasp the short, messy end of this particular stick.
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