Now that we have the Mac version of the Apple App Store with us, it’s time to take stock and look at the pros and cons of the Mac App Store . Nothing is perfect, and even less so in its first version but Cupertino’s guys have us pretty badly used to it so… what will weigh more, the bad or the good? Let’s see…
- Simplicity. The installation and update of applications is completely transparent to the user and saves many headaches and complications to anyone able to appreciate this type of centralization. By the way, in addition to the icon in the Dock, the Mac App Store is also accessible from the apple menu in the top bar of Mac OS X 10.6.6.
- Security. Like the original App Store, the Mac App Store also uses our iTunes account to make purchases so we gain security and convenience simply by not having to entrust our data to any additional companies. And if using a credit card online isn’t your strong suit, you can always turn to gift cards.
- More economical applications available separately. Apple has taken the price of its apps out of the box, offering for the first time the ability to purchase the flagship products in its popular iWork and iLife packages individually. Applications such as Pages, Keynote, and Numbers can be purchased for ?15.99 each. This is still far from the ?80 of the physical version (?32 more expensive). But they’re not the only ones: the digital download of Aperture 3 costs 62.99 euros, the same as Apple Remote Desktop, when its price was a whopping 202 euros and 283 euros respectively.
- A flood of news. It’s not lost on anyone that the iPhone first, and later the iPod touch and iPad, attracted a number of developers who’d never been exposed to the Apple platform. And because programming for iOS is no different than programming for the Mac, we find that many of the App Store’s most successful games and applications are now available to the rest of the family as well.
- Buy once and install on all your computers. The App Store uses a licensing system similar to iTunes, and while there are still some unanswered questions about the limit of this new licensing system, it definitely improves the current bet of the vast majority of applications. The concept is as simple as it is great: the application belongs to the buyer, the user, not to a specific computer, and if you want you can download and install it on all your computers without the slightest problem.
- Inflated prices. Confirmed, despite Apple’s strong commitment (see point three of the best), the rest of the developers don’t seem willing to fall back, at least at launch, into the price war that brought down the cost of many iOS applications. To give you some examples, while the iPad version of the Mahjong Epic HD video game costs only 0.79 euros, its adaptation for Mac reaches 7.99 euros. Other classics like Angry Birds or Flight Control go from 0.79 to 3.99 euros while apps like Hibari, a simple Twitter client (in my opinion, much worse than the official free one) goes for the pool with its hardly tempting 10.99 euros.
- Lack of integration with the other installation methods At least in Snow Leopard (we’ll see in Lion), the App Store shows an irritating lack of knowledge about the applications we had previously installed on our computer or that we installed on our own outside the store. This implies that we cannot update them from it even if we have already paid Apple itself previously as it happens in the case of iWork. Interestingly, the iLife ’11 package or specific applications such as Transmit do appear to me as installed (although in gray instead of the blue used by the applications purchased from the store), so things may change in the near future and offer the desirable backwards compatibility. Fingers crossed. Update: It seems that Apple has given developers the option to detect whether or not their application is installed on the system regardless of whether it was purchased by another user from the App Store or whether we installed it externally. So far, so good; the problem remains that this detection has a mere informative value since if we delete an application, the App Store is not able to remember it and install it later using the new system. In short, what is missing is a method to import the licenses of our applications acquired or downloaded previously to the App Store.
- Uninstall? What’s that? Even more worrying is the absence of an uninstall system as my colleague Samuel pointed out in his visual tour of the store. I quote and subscribe his words: “The application is not able to help us in the task of deleting applications, we will have to perform this task manually as before. However, if you delete an application, it will recognise that it is no longer on the system and offer you the possibility of downloading it again”.
- Snow Leopard or higher. I understand and accept that the Mac App Store is presented as one of Lion’s new features and that its previous release in Snow Leopard is just a kind of warm-up, but I also understand the annoyance of many Leopard users (for example, all those who still use PowerPC equipment) who see it as a feature that a priori seems easy to launch as a standalone application that is hopelessly out of reach.
- Big absences. It is estimated that the Mac App Store has been launched with about 1000 applications that are sure to grow exponentially over the next few months. However, the absence of heavyweights such as Adobe, which already has a considerable user base through such well-known applications as Photoshop or Lightroom, is notorious. I imagine that the 7030 offered by Apple does not encourage them enough at the moment compared to the current 1000 of sales made through their own website.
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