Friday, October 22

The Mac App Store, why it's awesome.

On Tuesday this week, Steve Jobs got up in front of journalists and announced several things.  I'd like to cover them all at once, but I realized the post was going to be way too long, so I thought I'd cover them in separate topics.

The Mac App Store

First let me talk about, what I thought was the biggest announcement of the entire press conference.  The Mac App Store.

Similar to the iOS App store that you can find in iTunes, Apple will be rolling out a separate application onto the OSX platform where developers can upload their apps to Apple in order for them to be purchase-able through the "one-click" easy access of this app.

Apple is taking the same 'cut' that it takes for the iTunes app store, 70/30.  70% of the developers revenue for selling an app goes to the developer, the other 30% goes to Apple to pay for the store, the hosting, the bandwidth, etc.  Some developers will think that this is Apple gouging into their profits, and while true, they have to think of a couple things:

1) I can raise the price of my app, just enough, to make it worthwhile for me.

2) The prices of the apps in the Mac App store will generally be higher, as they will be of higher quality. (Theory of mine, as they won't be just little fart apps for the iPhone.)

3) You would now be featured in the "showcase" as it were for Apps.  This is a genius idea.  Yes you have to sacrifice the 30% of your revenue, but your download count will go through the roof.  Look at the developers that have made millions off of the iPhone app store in just a short amount of time after it's release.

Conspiracy Theories

Some people I've heard talk about the App store seem to think this is Apple's way of locking you into their platform.  Let me share my opinion on this.

They already have you locked into their platform.

First off, if you buy your app from the app store, you click the button, it downloads over the internet (further reinforcing my theory that I wrote a couple years ago when the Macbook Air came out, I said that it was going to be the end of distributing software via physical medium), it installs by itself.  Done.  Easy.

If you want to update the app, you go to the "updates" section of the app store, and you click "update" or "update all" and all your apps are automagically updated.  What I'd like to see Apple do is have all their updates take place through this system.  I think "Software Update" and the "Updates in the App store" may be confusing for some users, but that will remain to be seen I guess.

At the same time yesterday we found out that Apple is depreciating Java on their system, and the new Macbook Air (which I'll talk about in a later post) is shipping without Adobe Flash.  I think both of these are smart decisions, and would like to see both of these in the App Store.  Oracle submits a Java build, and Adobe submits Flash.  You download both of these with one click, from one place (instead of going all over the internet to find them and their updates), and that way when a new update comes out for Flash or Java, you just click "Update" in the app store.  This does two things:

A) Makes security better, by providing an easy way for people to update their apps.

B) It absolves Apple from having to maintain older software on their system and keep it updated (such as Flash).

Great idea.

More Conspiracy Theories

Yesterday on my drive home I was listening to the latest "MacBreak Weekly" podcast, and even though Alex Lindsay has been saying it for several months now, he reiterated it again in the latest broadcast.  He thinks that the OS on the Mac is going to iOS.

I think he could not be more wrong, and let me explain why.

Steve Jobs said yesterday that they were bringing some of the things they have learned form the iPhone and iPad back to the Mac.  Good idea.  It's great to have a unifying experience across all your platforms.

Does that mean that the OSX Operating system will be all touch based?  No.  Jobs said that yesterday, trying to manipulate objects on a vertical surface doesn't work.  Think about it as you are reading this right now, if you are reading this on a traditional computer.  Think about not having your mouse, and moving the cursor or using gestures on your monitor.  Play with that idea a second.  Your arm would get so tired and you'd get frustrated after awhile.  Heck, when I dock my iPad and use a regular keyboard with it, and I have to reach up and tap something on the screen when it's in a vertical configuration, it's annoying.  This won't work.  I agree.

Does that mean that OSX can't learn some multi-touch gestures?  No.  In fact, you can already scroll with two fingers (have been able to do for years on the Mac), three finger swipe forwards and back, even rotate photos and documents by the same rotation method that you use on the iPod Nano's screen.  Add a few more of these and the system will not only be intuitive, but you'll be able to get a lot done, faster.  That's why Apple invented the Magic Mouse, and that's why they invented the Magic Trackpad.  Look at the direction of the Operating System and it makes sense.

OSX is not becoming iOS.  It won't work.  But there are advantages that iOS has that OSX does not have, again, let's come back to the App Store.  The App Store on the iTunes/iPod touch/iPhone/iPad system is an easy one-click access to any app on the Apple store.  The App store on the Mac is going to be the same way.  However, what side effects does this provide that people may not have thought of yet?

1) Your Apps are tied to your iTunes account.  Okay, that means that if I want to rebuild my computer, or buy a new one, all I have to do is open the App Store and I can suck down all the apps that I've already paid for without having to re-find them on the internet, or from a backup.  Better yet, I don't have to keep track of licenses and other non-sense like that.

2) Easy updating.  This is important, not only for functionality, but for security.  I think this is one of the best features of the App Store.

3) Your Apps are tied to your iTunes account.  Which means what?  That's right.  They are DRM'ed to your name.  Which means what?  That's right.  You can't pirate the Apps.

Let me pause for effect.

Apple.  Just figured out a way.  To stop.  Software piracy.

Yup.  That's just happened.

Genius.  I buy all my applications anyway, so it doesn't affect me, but that's awesome.

The apps that are sold through the app store can't be packaged up and sent to your friend anymore.

Yes, you can still download apps and what not from the Internet in general (meaning that developers for the Mac don't HAVE to sell their apps through the app store), but then you are dealing with not being in front of tons of eyes through the App Store, licensing and purchasing schemes.  You have to maintain all of that yourself.  Whereas through the App Store, Apple has taken care of all of that for you and prevented the piracy of your Apps.

I also think this will totally increase the amount of apps available for the Mac platform.  All of a sudden people will have easy access to a way to simply get their Mac Application out there without having to shrink wrap it and get it into the big-box stores.


Honestly, I see nothing but good things here.  The only time I'll have a problem with the Mac App Store is when Apple says that the only place you can get the apps is from them.  .....and they are still taking their 30% cut.

That's not really fair (which isn't happening, I'm just theorizing).

Although it would be interesting, because then all code would come from Apple, approved, and signed.  Malware and what-not could be rendered totally non-existant.

Apple has also stated in their terms of service that "violent" video games can't be on the App Store.

That sucks.  I think that'll hurt the store overall, but who knows, they may fix that.


CBass said...

Couldn't agree more. The ease of use is fantastic whereas the moral and philosophical reasons for governing software is bad. I suppose it's a bit to naive to think there's room for both.

For the record, I'm more excited about Mission Control, but I think I multitask a bit more than you. I just went there.

Randerson said...

one problem with a move towards the app store is that it makes managing a large network of Macs harder.

I had a presentation with an Apple engineer the other day about Mac Client Management. when asked about how to deploy apps to iPads since they come from the app store, the answer was you give each person a list of Distribution keys and have them install them. that's great if you are talking about a business where all of your users are adults, but i manage a School District network and i might be talking about grades k-3 as the main users of a set of computers. I now have to have someone sit down and manually installupdate each individual computer, where as the current method, i can deploy a package through Apple Remote desktop to a large number of computers at a time.

if that's the only way i can get flash and java, it might mean that i update less frequently since i don't have the manpower to have flash updated manually on each computer everytime Adobe releases an update.

Joel Esler said...

I'd have to think they'd have to come up with something for that. While Apple is primarily focused on the consumer, I'd have to naive to think that they haven't though of this and may build something into OSX 10.7 Lion Server.