How the Mac App Store Can Become Truly Transformative

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One of the sleeper features of the Mac App Store was Apple’s new approach to “suite” products. Instead of forcing users to upgrade the entire iLife suite, applications are available as individual purchases. Is this a taste of things to come in OS X 10.7? Could this approach even make it possible to upgrade Lion via the App store? I hope so. Here’s why.

While the DVD for Snow Leopard has a full suite of potential drivers, developer apps, and localizations, the average Mac users needs very little of that. For the first time, Apple decided not to install a standard set of print drivers in Leopard, but install only those for printers directly connected to the Mac at the time of install. If you change to a different printer, Snow Leopard will offer to download the latest driver. Similarly, Rosetta is not installed by default, but can be installed on demand upon running an application that requires it. Nice! Ironically, Windows has had that driver on demand install function for some time.

In fact, Windows 7 takes it one step further by allowing you to install some of its features and applications on demand. You can even upgrade to different versions of Windows 7 directly from within the operating system. While these are just different flavors of Windows 7, they do add many features and utilities.

Now that the App Store will be included on every new Mac, I’d love to see the day where I can install and add features on demand via the App Store directly from Apple. As many of us move to faster yet smaller SSD drives, space again becomes an issue. Even if space isn’t an issue, I want to be empowered as a user to install exactly what I want on my Mac and not have Apple’s entire suite pushed upon me. I’m one of those who reformats their Mac the minute they take it home so that way I decide exactly what is and isn’t on the machine.

For example, Garageband is a great program for some people. For me, it’s a waste of space. I don’t need it, nor do I ever expect to. Instead of installing it on my Mac and forcing me to remove it along with all the support files taking up space on my disk, give me the option to install it via the App Store. The same holds true for programs that have commercial or shareware equivalents. If I’m a Microsoft Office 2011 user than why waste the space and cause confusion with Apple Mail, Address Book and iCal? Sure, allow me to install it from the App Store if I so choose, but give me the option. Do I really need twenty languages installed when I only speak U.S. English?

Moreover, by using the App Store to unbundle applications from the OS, system updates won’t be the behemoths they’ve become. Instead, use the App Store structure to update non-core OS items, saving us all time and empowering us to update only what we want.

If the OS is stripped to its core and doesn’t include the localizations, drivers, and extras included on the typical upgrade DVD, Lion, could in theory, be an “in place” upgrade available from the App Store, also making it convenient to reinstall when you have a problem. Whether users would have burn a DVD, run it off a RAM disk, or a USB stick — I’ll leave that to the engineers. Resellers would hate this approach, but it would help Apple’s environmental reputation and eliminate useless production, packaging and transportation costs.

The Mac App Store is transformative, and Apple should allow it be even more so by allowing the user to install, on demand, exactly what they want on their Mac — including an OS upgrade.

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