Weighing In On A Potential "App Store" For Macs

You knew it was coming.  I think pundits have been wondering for years whether Mac desktops and laptops might get bound to an App Store environment, becoming fully-rooted residents of the infamous walled garden, planted right next to the fully bloomed iPhone and budding iPad.

Apparently, Sir Jobs has ambiguously denied a random email asking if such a store is in the works, although it's unclear what his answer does or could mean.

My theory?  A Mac App Store of some kind, integrated into iTunes, will exist someday very, very soon... whether we like it or not.  What does that mean for Mac users?

Why a Mac App Store Would, in Theory, Be Awesome

Admittedly, I think an App Store for Mac software would be pretty cool.  There doesn't seem to be any reason not to, really.  Apps like Bodega even make an attempt to emulate this type of environment, and do a pretty good job of it.

Great for developers.  From what I've heard and read, Mac developers seem to earn significantly less on Mac apps than they do on iPhone/iPod Touch/etc. apps.  This would make sense, due to the disparity between market share of iDevices and Macs.  Devs would get a lot more exposure to software that they arguably do not sell enough of.

Lower prices.  Similar to the economy of the App Store, there would be dozens, if not hundreds and hundreds of choices for apps in each category or function.  Demand would be higher and choices would abound, leading to lower prices overall for consumers without having a negative impact on devs - at least, that would be my hope.

Ease of purchasing and saving purchase info.  For consumers, having a central hub for purchasing Mac software would be a great thing, assuming one had full rights to download the software any time on as many machines one had a license for.  No more searching around for annoying license keys or outdated downloads on old software sites, it would all be automatic.  I've bought a lot of Mac software over the years, and I have to archive the files plus save all of my logins AND license key information, which is a lot of work.  You also wouldn't need to provide your personal info to dozens of different companies and go through multiple shopping carts; you'd have one-click through the App Store instead.

More exposure = more variety.  I would certainly hope that the addition of an Apple-sanctioned App Store for Mac software would entice developers to continue creating and improving Mac native software.

Why A Mac App Store Could Be Horrible

Well, there's only one reason that I can think of, and that would be if Mac OS X were modified to behave like iPhone OS, or, alternately, if future Macs ran a version of iPhone OS.  That means no sideloading of apps, no Terminal, no Flash, no apps that aren't approved by Apple, no Desktop, etc.

Here's the thing - I'm cool with the walled garden with my iPhone and iPad, since they're not really "computers" in my mind.  Neither one can or will ever replace my Mac Mini.  I can install whatever I want on my Mac.  I can view Flash files.  I can open the Terminal and play around with Unix commands.  I could even install a *gasp* *giggle* *snort* *cough*p0rn*cough* application if I wanted to.  That was what I was promised when I bought the machine.

If, all of a sudden, Macs became "crippled" in the same way that iPhones and iPads are, Apple would have one heck of a nightmare on their hands.  Truthfully, I'm not too worried about this.

Is OS X's Future Threatened?

However, I AM worried about the future of the Mac desktop and laptop.  Clearly, Apple is ruthless about their closed approach to their mobile devices, and it has proven to be profitable, so who's to say that they (and their shareholders, who have made boatloads of money) won't push this approach for full fledged machines?

Who's to say that my next Mac Mini won't have a modified version of iPhone OS 5 on it?  Who's to say that Apple won't block Flash from the next version of OS X?  What if I can't just download any app for my main machine and HAVE to go through an App Store?  Seriously, what if they were no longer "real" computers?!?

Well, I'd seriously switching back to the dark side. Or perhaps Ubuntu.  Only time will tell.


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