Apple yesterday announced that they are bringing an App Store to the Mac. Coming in 3 months, the Mac App Store will be available to existing Snow Leopard users, allowing them to quickly browse the market, read reviews, view screenshots and purchase both free and paid apps.

The system will be very similar to the iOS App Store but will lead to a fundamental change in the way desktop users source their applications.

Here are some of the key points:

  • Developers can distribute their applications via the Mac App Store AND via traditional means such as from their website or using optical media.
  • Licensing of applications will extend to all of the users Macs. E.g. buy once, run on every Mac in the house. This could be a deal breaker for many firms that rely on complex licensing systems (like a family pack), or who want to implement their own DRM.
  • Users will be notified of app updates automatically. It remains to be seen if developers will be allowed to charge for major revisions of their software (unlike iOS). Again, this could be a deal breaker.
  • Applications must be built using Apple own tools (XCode), and must not be programmed in Java or Rosetta (legacy) technologies. This is fair enough, and to be expected, given Apples ignorance towards Java in the past 3-4 years. Also, to put the final nail in the Java/Apple coffin, they stated yesterday in the Java ‘Update 3’ release notes, that Java “may be removed from future versions of Mac OS X.”
  • The same 70% (developer) / 30% (Apple) split applies on sales in the store. No fee for free applications.
  • Apps that use private APIs, crash,  will be rejected.
  • All the usual rules about privacy and location based services apply. One of the main problems for me when I moved from Windows to Mac about 6 years ago, was “where do I find software?”. Even to this day, it can be daunting trying to find an image manipulation program that works for my needs. When the app store comes along, I’ll be able to find that program in 3 clicks, read reviews, and download it if I like it. Google is great for search, but it’s not that great as a store front.

For developers, this opens up a new revenue stream. Ok, we will now be keeping 70%, and giving 30% of sales to Apple, as opposed to keeping 100% before. If you can’t deal with that, then stay away from the Apple model. Stick with your website or CD distribution methods. Or maybe sell it on both, while charging a slight premium for the App Store version to make up for the lost 30%. At the end of the day, you will get more eyeballs on your product and this can only be a good thing.

Also, for small developers like myself, who have relied on donations to keep projects running, I now have an option to charge a small fee for an app, without having to set up any payment system, dealing with refunds, setting up DRM, etc etc…

I know a small portion of nerds don’t want this to happen, and may abondon the Mac because of it. Maybe they feel like they are losing control of the Mac. I don’t think so.

For the vast majority of normal users, this is good. This bridges the gap between developers and users, and I for one, welcome our new app store overlords.