Mac App Store - Some Initial Thoughts

So the Mac App Store has launched and there doesn’t appear to have been any major disasters.

Much to my relief it has been possible to purchase a paid app (e.g. the new iMovie 11) and not only install it on my user account on another Mac, but also to use it in my wife’s user account on both Macs. This was my big concern which seems to have been unfounded. However, it’s early days yet and by all accounts not all developers have been properly checking receipts so far which means the situation could change. I’m feeling fairly confident given that I’ve tested it with Apple’s own offerings.

Available apps

The range of apps available so far is quite small in comparison to the “free market” and the iOS App Store, but that’s only to be expected. The pleasant surprise was to see so many familiar names like OmniFocus, MarsEdit and iBank, as well as the expected Apple favourites like iWork and iLife 11.

The biggest surprise for me was the fact that Aperture is selling through the Mac App Store for just £44.99. Given that Apple are still selling the boxed version1 for £173 through the Apple Store it’s an amazing deal. Given the prices I’ve paid since Aperture 1.5 (£220 + £79 for the 2.0 upgrade + £79 for the 3.0 upgrade!) it smarts slightly, but it’s great to see the price point reduce for an invaluable tool, and hopefully it will drive uptake and lead to renewed vigour on the applications development.

Confusion

It’s not all been plain sailing. There’s a bit of confusion out there about the fact that the Mac App Store application detects your previously licensed software as being installed. It’s not clear if this is a bug or intentional, but it is causing people to ask the question “If the Mac App Store can tell that I have the software installed, can it update it for me?” The answer is made pretty clear at this site: http://ifiboughtyourappalreadycaniupdateitthroughthemacappstore.com/ Basically the apps are detected as installed because they share the same bundle ID. Unfortunately they are usually different builds[^1.5] of the software which just report themselves to be the same. In short - unless you bought it through the Mac App Store, you can’t update it through the Mac App Store.

There’s also no way to uninstall apps through this new interface. While it’s still as easy to remove apps by dragging them to the trash, it’s not the polished solution I was hoping for. One of the obvious reasons for the Mac App Store was the fact that it reduced the hell that .dmg files could be for inexperienced users. Job done, but it still doesn’t make it any easier for the same users to remove software that they no longer want (especially as the Mac App Store makes it so much easier to download free and cheap apps to clutter our /Applications folder).

Overall

It’s been a good day. The store hasn’t disappointed. I’ve managed to upgrade my iLife 09 to iLife 11 for just £27 (the physical package costs £45 from Apple and contains two apps which have not been updated and which I don’t care about2. My only gripe is that I can’t trade in my previously licensed apps (such as iBank, Delicious Library 2, MarsEdit, etc) for Mac App Store versions which are upgradeable through the Mac App Store. I’d love the upgrade convenience for sure, but I’m not going to re-buy any of them just for that! I am reserving judgement when it comes to future upgrades though…3

  1. I say boxed version, but it’s not even a particularly big box anymore. It comes with a DVD-ROM and a few little booklets. Not worth the price difference.

  2. iWeb and iDVD.

  3. My thinking here is this: upgrades on iOS are always free. I’ve not seen any details on the Mac App Store about what will happen with upgrades - I see three broad options:

    • we get them for free;
    • we have to pay full price for a new version;
    • we have to pay an upgrade fee.

    I guess time will tell. But if we get them for free it may be worth ditching old licenses for Mac App Store licenses which potentially have free updates for life. If we have to pay full price for a new version then I’ll stick with the old licensing systems.