First Look: Apple's Mac App Store Is A Game-Changer

Apple's Mac App Store

Well, don't worry. At a little before 9 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, word came across that the Mac App Store was open for business and the 10.6.6 update and access to the software venue were flawless. Even though there have been some scattered reports on Twitter and other places of slow or no access, and one brief instance we ran into when the store was not available for a moment, all seems to work fine.

And, like so many other launches from Apple, the Mac App Store is a game-changer.

The Mac App Store is essentially a complete replica of the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad, and it operates in much the same, intuitive way. The App Store icon – the same icon you see on iTunes or the iPhone or iPad – sits on the bottom toolbar and is easy to access as any other application on the Mac. It is run as a separate application from iTunes

The store itself is somewhat impressive on launch, with a nice array of business, productivity, utility and game applications. And, like the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad, Apple provides the opportunity to browse through both free and paid apps by category. It provides the gamut of software: from Angry Birds to Citrix Reciever, to individual iWork applications that can be bought one at a time, including Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

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What it does not (yet) have are other applications that many may find essential, including Office for Mac 2011, Pandora and key Adobe applications like Photoshop (it does offer Apple's Aperture 3 photo rendering application, for $79.99).

Applications that are online are purchased via an Apple account, downloaded lickety-split, and installed directly onto the toolbar in a matter of seconds, not minutes. App updates are served up in the same, simple way on the Mac now as they are on iPhone and iPad, although initially none of our apps in the CRN Test Center needed any.

The Mac App Store, at an initial glance, appears to offer a significant disruption to the desktop and notebook software marketplace. Some independent software vendors will, as others have pointed out, find themselves under extreme price pressure because lower-cost competitors will now have side-by-side visibility that didn't exist until today. But other ISVs, like Adobe, make software that is considered indispensable in so many quarters that the Mac App Store will provide them with additional opportunity without having the added worry of price erosion – at least not now.

For solution providers and VARs, the Mac App Store will also provide some positive disruption: additional opportunity without a major, immediate risk of big-time pricing pressure. Businesses will have to account for the Mac App Store in their IT security and management planning, yet its availability and the availability of an avalanche of new apps for Mac OS X will make it, for many, a much more attractive platform.