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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