So yesterday the App Store phenomena came to the Macintosh, and I’ve been playing with it for a few hours now. Coincidentally, that’s just the right amount of time to let you know my first impressions – so here they are!
After reading on Twitter how OS X 10.6.6 had been released and that it held the key to unlocking some App Store goodness I rushed, well, meandered home to fire off the update. Much downloading and rebooting later and I’m sat staring at the now familiar icon behind which there resides a world of applications waiting for my money. I stab at the little icon of loveliness and wait. And wait.
It appears Apple’s servers got a bit of a hammering today, who could see that coming!? Quitting and restarting the app solved the issue. Hurrah!
Once in, the whole experience is instantly familiar whilst also feeling completely foreign. The familiarity comes from the store layout, icons and ads. If you’ve ever used the App Store on an iPad, or indeed inside iTunes then the chances are you’ll feel right at home. The interesting thing though is how it just feels…odd.
Now this is where I try desperately to stop myself from getting carried away and coming across as a miserable, App Store hating crazy person. But stick with me, I’ll come back to what I don’t like later on.
Sat looking at the front page (is it a page?) right now I see a huge ad for Pixelmator across the top, a list of paid-for and free apps below, and charts for both on the right hand side. All pretty much par for the course.
In the menu bar across the top we have the expected Featured, Top Charts, Categories and Updates tabs. Apple has also thrown in a ‘Purchased Apps’ option here, where perhaps predictably the store lists everything you’ve downloaded – including free stuff. Useful indeed.
From here there’s not a great deal to look at. You flick through the charts, check out the apps and buy things. It’s an App Store. It works.
Now onto why it’s not all (double) rainbows and unicorns…
The first issue people will come across is the ‘I already own an app and the App Store doesn’t know’ problem. Obviously this means updates won’t be handled by the store, and you’re left with a stand-alone app that needs updating the ‘old fashioned’ way.
Now if we’re talking about a free app it’s not really an issue. Just download via the App Store and you’re golden. The old app gets replaced and now updates are handled as expected. The problem here is that if the app is a paid-for item then this won’t work. Unless you want to pay twice, of course.
Don’t get me wrong here, I know this isn’t a world-ending problem, but it’s messy. I had hoped that there would be a way for the App Store to check existing licenses and import them, making the whole thing THE PLACE to handle your apps. iTunes for applications if you will. Alas, I was hoping for too much.
My other downer is something that I suspect is more an issue with the way I’m now accustomed to using the iOS store.
Looking through the categories of paid apps you find yourself looking at semi-pro apps priced at semi-pro price points. Alongside those are super cheap, what I like to call ‘throwaway’ products. Here one of two things happens: either the good apps look overpriced, or the cheap apps find themselves elevated to a level they just don’t deserve. On iOS this isn’t such a problem as we’ve witnessed a race to the bottom – developers trying to make apps as cheap as possible to drive sales. This isn’t going to happen with a $99 application and they might not benefit from being lumped in with $0.99 ‘competitors’. Whether this is a real problem or me thinking too much remains to be seen. Time will tell, and I have been known to be wrong before. Once.
Before I leave you to get back to Angry Birds on the big screen, I just want to mention a tweet I saw earlier from the guys over at Evernote.
“Early Mac App Store Effect: Rate of new users on Mac is 1800% higher than normal. Wow.”
That, right there, is why the Mac App Store will be a success despite any flaws or potential issues it might have. Stores aid discovery, and people discovering apps means people paying for them.
What makes this great news for us is this: more apps sold equals many more, and hopefully better apps for us to play with in the future.
Now, what shall I buy next?