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On the Mac App Store.

The Mac App Store strikes me as being fantastic for Mr and Mrs John Smith. Just like the App Store for iOS devices, it offers a simple way to purchase and install software plus a convenient and equally simple way of staying up to date.

For me, there’s no question about it, the “app store” is definitely the future of software sales.

Some things about the current Apple setup do puzzle me though.

Mac OS X’s long-standing Software Update mechanism is intended to keep the system software up to date but it also currently provides updates to Apple applications, such as those in the iLife and iWork bundles, iTunes, Aperture, etc. However, the iLife and iWork apps (et al) are available – and sold individually, too – on Mac App Store, so what happens now? Will updates for these apps now be pushed from App Store or Software Update? Or both? Or a mish-mash depending on if you’re running a pre- or post-Mac App Store versions of the apps?? There are rumours that future versions of OS X itself will be sold and installed via the Mac App Store – so will system updates comes through it or Software Update? Not so straight forward and lovely and logical for Mr and Mrs Smith now, is it?

Furthermore, what happens as software ages? I fully expect major version releases of Apple and 3rd party apps to require a new purchase rather than being a free update. That’s fair enough, vendors need to get paid for their efforts. However, the beauty of the App Store is that you can re-download the apps you already own for free should you ever need to wipe your Mac’s hard drive or when you buy a new Mac. But how will the Mac App Store cope with this? Will the App Store keep old versions of apps online as new major ones are released? And what about hardware requirements changing? Lets say i buy MS Word 2014 from the App Store and all’s well until a couple of years later when my Mac’s hard disk dies and i have to replace it, reinstall the OS, etc. I re-download the apps i own from App Store – but wait, MS Word 2016 is the current version, which i never bothered buying because the requirements were higher than my Mac’s spec – so how do i get 2014 back? MS don’t sell discs anymore. 2014 isn’t on the App Store. Do i have to buy a brand new Mac just to be able to run Word?

The future of the Mac App Store is very bright but as it matures I expect there will be some unwelcome trade-offs and some difficult choices to make.

Note: The Mac App Store opened for business on 6th January 2011. This post has been sat in my Drafts folder since a few days after that. I thought i’d better finish it off and post it now before the questions contained within are redundant.

Update: How odd that i should finally get around to posting my thoughts on Apple’s Mac App Store on the day that Amazon announce their own Mac Download Store. This Amazon offering isn’t able to compete with Apple’s in terms of system integration (and thus simplicity) but clearly this confirms the direction in which software sales are heading.