It was only a matter of time before Apple launched their own dedicated Mac App store which duly dropped last week. Of course, there has been the Apple download site for Mac apps for quite some time now but the Mac App Store is a much more dedicated and OS X integrated affair that makes browsing, downloading, installing and updating Mac Apps much slicker. Perhaps most importantly however, it removes the file hosting burden from developers, gives them much wider coverage for their apps and of course, offers both them and Apple the chance to make more money from their creations.
Firstly, to use the Mac App Store, you’ll need to upgrade to OS X 10.6.6 via Software Update. Download sizes vary, but it the system update can be as large as 1GB. Once installed, you’ll have access to the App Store via a blue App Store icon in your Dock or via your Menu Bar:
The main window features a cycle of different promotions (in this case iLife) but it can change several times while you’re using the store. The amount of information is a bit overwhelming at first with New and Noteworthy, Staff Favorites, What’s Hot and the Top 10 Sales, Free and Grossing all vying for space in the main window.
I took a look at the Top 10 Free Apps, and number one at the time of writing was MindNode. Click on the app, and you’re presented with a clear program description page:
You only get one screenshot in this case which is a bit limited but you can read lots of customer reviews, program details plus links to more apps by the same developer. To download the application, you’ll need to click on the “Free” or “Payment” button in the top left hand corner. You’ll then be prompted to sign into your Apple account (or sign-up for one):
If you’ve never used your ID to purchase anything from Apple – such as an iTunes track for example – you’ll be prompted to review your account details and enter credit card information in case you want to purchase apps. Users who only intend on downloading free apps may object to this and perhaps there should be an option to omit this unless you want to purchase apps.
Installation of applications is incredibly fast – a status bar in the Dock icon reveals how much time is left for downloading and installation and apps are ready to use in your Dock within seconds depending on the size of the application. This is definitely one of the Mac App Store’s strongest features. Even better, updates take place automatically although there’s no guarantee they will be free if the developer chooses to charge a fee.
Overall, the Mac App Store finally brings Macs into line with iPhones in terms of convenience of trying new applications. Downloading and installing in particular has never been easier. However, the Mac App Store doesn’t provide reviews by staff, screenshots may be limited and of course, your choice of applications is restricted to what Apple considers acceptable for Macs. For those who love the convenience of the iPhone App store and have a Mac, it’s sure to be a big hit. For those used to getting their app info, reviews and user opinions from independent sites, it may not quite hold the same appeal.