The Mac App Store is here, and is now up and running on all three of my Snow Leopard-sporting machines. As you might expect, the experience is very much like what you get from the iOS App Store. But the Mac version has its differences, too.


The Mac App Store is here, and is now up and running on all three of my Snow Leopard-sporting machines. As you might expect, the experience is very much like what you get from the iOS App Store. But the Mac version has its differences, too.

First, let’s talk about the similarities. The Mac App Store looks a lot like the iOS version, especially the one you find on the iPad. Like the iOS App Store, the Mac store requires you to have and sign-in with an active Apple ID. You’ll need this to purchase and download free apps from the store, though your account doesn’t have to be associated with a credit card if you want to just download free apps or use iTunes gift cards. Promotional codes appear to also work, if you can get your hands on some.

Purchasing apps works much the same as on an iOS device, too. You click the item’s price and it will ask you for your Apple ID credentials, or begin downloading immediately if you’ve recently provided them, triggering an animation of the app’s icon jumping to your dock. Every app you download from the App Store will appear in the dock by default, though it actually resides in your Applications folder. There’s no way to turn this off, since the App Store lacks a preferences menu, but you can always just drag icons out of the dock after the fact. The app’s icon will show a loading bar as it downloads and installs, and will appear as normal once the operation is complete and you’re free to use it.

The fact that there is so little you can customize or change about the Mac App Store is indicative of the direction Apple seems to want to go with software. As with iOS, the goal is probably to provide a surface-level simplicity that reduces potentially confusing menu items to the absolute minimum.  Many third-party apps that launched with the App Store seem to share this design philosophy, too.

Since the Mac App Store lacks its own dedicated preference menu, I initially thought users couldn’t limit access to it in the way they could the iTunes and iOS App Stores. Not so, since Mac App Store restrictions can be set using Parental Controls, found in OS X’s System Preferences, as shown in the screenshot below.

One of the best carry-overs from the iOS version of the App Store is the ability to install software on multiple machines. Software purchases on my iMac can easily be installed on my MacBook Pro or Mac mini just by “purchasing” it again on each of those machines with the same Apple ID. Alternatively, you can hit the “Purchased” icon at the top of the App Store interface to check what you’ve bought, and an install option will appear if you don’t yet have it on the machine you’re using. Unfortunately, you can’t transfer purchases from your iOS device to your Mac, so if you bought Angry Birds on your iPhone and your iPad, you still have to buy it again for OS X.

Note that only apps you purchased through the Mac App Store have this ability. While the App Store will recognize that you have iWork or iLife apps installed from before, for instance, trying to purchase these on other computers will actually result in a charge to your account, not just a free re-download.

One big difference many iOS users will notice is in pricing. Mac App Store prices tend to vary much more than those for iPhone and iPad apps, and tend not to reside around the $0.99 mark. Around $20 to $30 seems to be fairly common, and some software climbs as high as $80 or even $150. For now, at least, the introduction of the iOS model of software distribution hasn’t led to a similar pricing model.

I’ve yet to experience updating an app, since everything I’ve purchased so far is already up-to-date, but I suspect it won’t differ all that much from updating apps on the iPhone or iPad. And while it’s early days yet, I think the Mac App Store will be a success for Apple, considering I’ve already bought around three times more OS X software than I have during the past three months combined. How about you?

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  1. Anyone found any sign of iWork 11? I saw the screenshot at the top of the article and got excited, then disappointed.

    1. Hamranhansenhansen Rob Thursday, January 6, 2011

      I would bet it will never ship as iWork ’11. Instead, future versions of the iWork for Mac apps will appear in Mac App Store only for $19.99 each. They may also be free upgrades for any previous version purchased from Mac App Store. Keynote is just “Keynote”, not “Keynote 5.”

  2. Great! I hate writing comments in the tiny windows/tiny type that the typical website (not Gigaom) provides. I’ve been looking forward to getting QuickCursor, so I can write inside Safari with the text editor of my choice (WriteRoom). Now I can!

    Thanks for answering a question I had about being able to install the same app on multiple machines. I just wonder if there’s a limit on installs per purchase, since that’d mean users would need to ‘deinstall’ an app before selling a Mac, so they don’t run out of installs after a few years and hardware upgrades.

  3. Screencast: The Mac App Store in Action: Apple News, Tips and Reviews « Thursday, January 6, 2011

    [...] to see how the new Mac App Store works but you can’t because you’re at work, using an older version of OS X, or (gasp) a [...]

  4. I hope that developers learn to distribute Mac App Store applications in other ways. Some of the seasoned Mac developers already do, but I see very little value in an App Store for the Mac. The major benefit on the consumer side, to me, is the ability to update applications simply and wholesale, like synaptic or apt-get. However, I think this could have been implemented separately like MacUpdate might have done in their desktop application. Instead, only Mac App Store purchases/downloads will be updated through the App Store, obviously.

    Also, in the early days, there are also some disagreements with the licensing situation depending on where the application is purchased. Omnigraffle is an example of this, where the download via App Store is $100 and should be installable on every machine. Direct from Omni Group, however, includes just a single limited license. Group licenses are much more expensive ($200?), giving incentive to use the App Store. Hopefully this kind of discrepancy will be addressed by developers for those of us who would rather not use the Mac App Store.

    Disclaimer: Yes, I bought Angry Birds. But I would rather have bought it from the developers directly. Unless, of course, the 30% overhead to Apple for distribution was worth it to the developers.

    1. I’m pretty sure you can license Omni Group software either to the user or to the machine. I’d contact them at sales@omnigroup.com to reality check the assumption. My understanding is that the Mac App Store is automatically a single-user license, any hacking aside.

  5. Works great! can’t wait for new apps like iWork 11 to be released. I have downloaded the new Twitter app and it works smoother than Tweetie. Very satisfied.

    1. Twitter is a new version of tweetie. Twitter recently bought Tweetie to supply a Highquality app on iDevices and Tweetie for Mac has been completely rewritten. Twitter.app is the result of that and a rebranding.

      1. ‘.app’? That seems like a useful nice domain inclusion to have with the exploding app on everything!

  6. Can’t use it. Don’t have a credit card. Why is Apple not able to provide normal payment options?

    1. I have never had a credit card, but also have never had an issue paying for music or applications with Apple. I use a debit card tied to my bank account – money is drawn out just like using a debit card anywhere else, no issues.

      What do you mean by ‘normal’ payment options? What do you expect them to offer, cash transactions from home via the internet?

      1. This:

        Or Paypal… for example.
        Here in Germany you don’t have the option to use paypal..at least i haven’t found it.
        Just a bad feeling after this article:


      2. I’m facing the same problem in India. I stopped using credit cards some time ago, but iTunes won’t let me create an ID without a credit card. No Paypal option for this region either. Pity.

  7. Apple Mac App store launched with 1000 apps – http://sanreflects.blogspot.com/

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  9. Hamranhansenhansen Thursday, January 6, 2011

    > OS X

    Mac OS! Mac OS runs on OS X (“Mac OS X”) but so does iOS. Angry Birds has been running on OS X for years, but has only been running on Mac OS for 1 day. Mac App Store has Mac apps for the Mac OS running on your Mac.

  10. The new Mac App store looks cool. Amazon too is trying to grab a pie of the online app shopping cake. It will initially offer programs that run on Google’s Android mobile operating system, and it’s offerings will only be to the U.S. market.

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