|Column: Mac App Store goes live|
Monday, 17 January 2011 15:43
Apple takes another step towards world domination, but this one is a bit shakier. About a week ago, Apple's Mac App Store went live. It is designed to be a one-stop, one-click shop for most of the smaller Mac software packages: don't expect to pop in and buy Adobe Creative Suite or another professional package.
Since getting my first Mac – a now dinged-up Macbook Pro with a few upgrades – about 30 months ago, I've enjoyed the computing experience. Learning new things about the operating system, trying out new apps, and dealing with the frustration of only sometimes having Windows applications available for something I want to do.
The first port of call was always Google. Most of the time the big 'G' had an answer or workaround, but searching for applications always led me down an educational path, and I'd be better versed in the matter of why OS X didn't do something, or why there wasn't an application available for what I wanted to do.
The back door
If a search was fruitless (and I was still convinced there was an app for the job), I'd go – hat in hand – to one of the many strong online communities. Invariably, somebody would post a weird link to a dodgy site where some developer has a hack job app that does the job. Sometimes the app would be really, really slick and deserving of a $5 or $10 price tag – yet here it was, for free, hidden away in a corner of the Web where few folks would look to find it.
This is what the Mac App Store brings to both average consumers and those hardworking developers. Instead of combing the Internet in search of a utility, folks can now just fire up the App Store, search one keyword and find tons of apps, instead of tons of unanswered forum posts. Developers who put their software on there will also get more exposure, even if that does come at the cost of Apple taking one-third of the revenue.
There are some disadvantages to this monolithic approach, though.
Traditionally, I'd like to download a bit of software and see if it does the job. Maybe I only need to use it once, and the trial licence allows for that. The Mac App Store only supports purchases at this point. Worse still, some will point out, is that the purchases are instant. There is no confirmation dialogue, and the account login confirmation only appears when you've been logged out.
If you want to try something out, you're probably better off visiting the developer's Web site and downloading the application manually. That is, if the developer hasn't migrated to the App Store completely, as some have. The only way to get the new Twitter application (formerly Tweetie) is through the Mac App Store.
Maybe software makers will do as they've done for the iTunes App Store, where “lite” versions of iOS applications are available. Limited functionality to try it out is better than spending money and learning that it sucks, I guess.
The other problem is that only Apple-vetted apps will be approved for the Mac App Store. While the rules are a lot less restrictive than those for the iTunes App Store, the Mac App Store will not have applications that use external (non-standard) libraries; and those that are technically just hacks for existing functions in OS X.
For those looking to innovate and explore their computer's workings, Google, Internet forums and dodgy Web sites will still be required. There's an Apple-attributed quote on the Web (and an Easter Egg in OS X) that goes: “Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes.”
Maybe somebody should remind Steve Jobs of what it means.
Christo van Gemert is the consumer technology editor of ITWeb.co.za. He has more than 10 years of experience playing with computers, phones, laptops, networking kit and... pretty much anything that has buttons or batteries. In his spare time he pretends to be good at photography, plays online games with Internet strangers and attempts to defy the laws of physics in whatever car he has on test. He tweets seriously at @ITWebGadgets and not so seriously at @hellospaceman.
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