I haven’t spent a ton of time talking about iOS apps here, but it should come as no surprise that like most iPhone/iPod/iPad users, the downloaded apps on my device of choice far outnumber those that were there originally. While I didn’t share same the OMG NATIVE APPS mentality that many did, I also didn’t become an iPhone user until after the App Store was an established foundation of the platform.
Suffice it to say, the App Store is an important facet of iOS as evidenced by the enthusiasm for it exhibited by both consumers and competitors. Those who make the excuse that apps are unnecessary when you have the web are doing just that: making an excuse. So it was no surprise when the iPad launched with the App Store already implemented, but it did bring into focus the gap between iOS and OS X.
With today’s announcement of the Mac App Store, that gap… is still there, but it’s also different. I noticed that Apple is positioning the different fragments of iLife and iWork as Mac Apps (which refer strictly to those available on the Mac App Store for the purpose of this post). Given that they’re treated similarly on the iOS App Store, that makes sense. What I’m curious about is how this new delivery system will affect the current crop of applications. There are a few in my dock that seem like natural candidates for such a thing; Adium X, Flickr Uploadr and Transmit come to mind, to name a few. However, given that we can simply download them from their respective websites, I have to wonder what added advantage the Mac App Store could offer.
It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea; even as a tech nerd, the idea of having what are basically “1-click installs” for all of these Mac Apps is appealing to me, and the familiarity bred by the iOS App Store means users will likely feel right at home doing the same on their OS X machine. Plus it’s one more way to get applications on your hot-sauce MacBook Air or Mac mini server. And the developer has the advantage of added exposure and being able to push updates through a more automated system.
But speaking of updates, don’t iOS Apps have to be submitted for review with every update? While that just may be part of the package on iOS, it’s very different from current OS X environment where they’re free to push updates whenever they finish them. Considering that apps are still distributable the old-fashioned way and the developer is well-known (Panic, for example), they may opt out of the Mac App Store environment completely. And is there some set of unique guidelines for Mac Apps versus “normal” applications?
Furthermore, and this is something that’s been weighing on my mind since the advent of the iPad, it’s obvious to me that Apple wants to somewhat unify the iOS and OS X experiences. I’m not saying they want to start forcing multitouch on OS X users (at least, not yet), but it is logical for them to integrate similar visual cues and behaviors on both sides (just as they do with their hardware). But I think having such similar buying experiences across two (three, if you treat the iPad as its own) platforms may confuse the issue – especially since you can buy apps for any of the three on your Mac.
I initially started typing this paragraph with the intent of naming some of the apps on my phone that I wouldn’t necessarily need on my Mac, but they’re actually mostly inherently useful in some way. That, then, begs the question – why can’t I use the theoretical copy of Pages that I bought on my imaginary iPad on my Mac too? From a technical standpoint I understand that they’re two different environments with different specs and requirements, but I don’t expect that to be as clear to the typical consumer. I guess we just need to think of the Mac as a PS3, for example, while the iOS devices are PSP’s. We may see the same titles on both but we’ll need to understand that they don’t work across the two devices (unlike the iPad’s “backwards compatibility” of sorts).
Don’t get me wrong; I do look forward to seeing how the Mac App Store changes the OS X experience. I am just not 100% sold – yet. Now that new MacBook Air, on the other hand…