Apple’s Mac Store cuts the clutter

January 6, 2011

a screenshot of Apple's Appstore. REUTERS/ Apple Inc1000 apps might not seem like a lot compared to the 300,000 offered for Apple’s iPhone, but there’s enough on offer at Apple’s new Mac App Store to cover most software bases, some of it deeply discounted.

The Mac App Store interface is easy to navigate, much like the iPhone and iPad sections on iTunes, with app icons arranged in rows.

However, if you’re not running OSX Snow Leopard on your Mac, you won’t even get that far. The store isn’t offered on computers running older Mac operating systems. The solution is to upgrade your OS, but that will run you $29. And you can’t download it, so you’ll have to have it shipped to you or pick it up at one of Apple’s retail outlets.

The difference between apps and software is virtual vs material. You’re not getting hard copy versions of the programs you buy when you purchase them through the Mac App Store. For some Apple-branded titles, like the popular photo editor Aperture, the savings can be substantial compared to how much they cost at brick-and-mortar stores and the online Apple Store.

Even third party software titles like Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro are substantially cheaper through the Mac App Store.

But other titles, such as the personal finance suite iBank and the drawing and painting program Kid Pix Deluxe 3D, cost slightly more in their non-optical forms.

Much like buying songs from albums on iTunes, the Mac App Store allows you to download individual components of bundled software like the iLife suite, and doesn’t charge a premium for the privilege.

Twitter chose to release its new app for the Mac, featuring real-time tweet updates, on the same day of the app store launch. And by midday, it was the most popular free download in the Mac App Store. The app installed easily and tweeting was a breeze.

Missing is the option to try before you buy. You could download app trial versions on other sites, but allowing third parties to embed in-app purchases would have been more developer friendly, which Apple was aspiring to with the store’s creation.

Apple’s Mac App store isn’t paving new paths for online retailing. But it will be sweet relief to Mac users who hate the clutter that boxes of software can create.

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