My Corner of the ‘Net

The Day of the Appliciation Proliferation

Posted on | January 6, 2011 | No Comments

The Mac App Store was officially launched today, making it Apple’s next big step towards bringing user generated content to it’s platform. The idea was a long time in coming after the massive popularity of the iPhone apps, and it’s been sought after by the developers who took to the original mobile dev kit like Tron fans to Olivia Wilde (come to think of it, the two groups overlap).

But the implications of this release are still being pondered analyzed by the developer community at large. How will this all impact the existing Mac development environment? What’s the benefit going to be for the End-User?

Cheaper Apps
While right now the store stocks apps that are comparatively more expensive than the ones found in the mobile app store, it’s partly because of the dearth of titles: the new app store has exploded onto the scene with a mere 1,000 applications available for download, so with limited selection you have to buy what’s there. But on the other side of the short fence, the stock of apps in the iTunes store hit 150,000 in February.

As more and more programs are released, competition will make the prices come down . And in general, independent developers don’t see the need to charge more for full OS X Apps. Porting them over to the new environment from iPhone/iPod is reportedly an easy process, and since it’s costing them less time and money to reprogram, that’s reflected in the app price.

Now, with the old applications from Mobile migrating to the mac desktop, and existing developers taking advantage of the new full-sized screen and keyboard environments of a full computer, not to mention the legions of developers who weren’t interested in mobile computing but will work on “actual” software, the number of software titles in the Mac App store will probably surpass the iTunes store within the year.

The death of Macupdate and it’s ilk
Macupdate and download.com (formerly VersionTracker) are two of my favorite “need an app to do a job fast” websites. If the need to convert something or open an unheard-of file format comes up, I’ll invariably hit them up for a shareware/demo/CHEAP bit of software to do the job. But if I can search a vetted and structured review system, with no random demo or shareware requirements attached, why should I go elsewhere? Java-native software will always have it’s place to be sure, but why visit other platforms when you can get what you need at home?

Cheaper Apps to do the same thing as expensive ones
Applications from the iLife suite are already on the app store for sale, and their prices are quite alluring. With the 60% discount on Aperture alone it’s worth updating my collection of mac-produced software.
But what about software we use on a regular basis from the big boys whose whole business model is liked to their applications, like Adobe and AutoDesk? Ostensibly, they’ll make discount “lite” versions similar to those mobile developers build to encourage the purchase of the full version. But with access to a proper OS X development kit, what’s going to stop independents from creating their own fully functional versions of the Adobe CS suite? Perhaps there will initially be outcry, screams of copyright infringement, perhaps even Apple kowtowing and yanking down the offending applications, swearing they’ll block any similar ones in the future.
But considering Steve Job’s present relationship with Adobe, how long would that go on for? What’s the length of time it would take a judge to rule Gimp already does what Photoshop does, and for all platforms. Why can’t these app store applications do the same thing?

Scribere Populi
The saying goes “everyone can write, but not everyone should”. It tells us the difference between good writing and bad writing is a matter of talent, not just a grasp of how to assemble words into a sentence. But think about it in comparison to programming: What if the English language was something only a small percentage of a population understood? If to write something of any length required extensive study, along with expensive machinery only a few knew how to use, we would end up with a fraction of the great works of literature we enjoy today. Proportionately, there are an elite few developers who understand how to build the programs we all use in our daily lives. But as application development becomes more and more user-friendly, people who could program might for the first time find it easy to do so, attracting more and more people wouldn’t normally write applications to the arena. There will be an outpouring of software being written by individuals who normally aren’t software developers. Not complete laymen necessarily, but programmers from other fields who haven’t built a desktop application before in their lives might give it a try. Many will give it a go and perhaps give it up as boring, simply not something they’re interested in. But a large percentage will stick with it, perhaps thriving and producing genuinely useful apps.

Whatever the implications, the Mac App store is going to make a lot of changes to how software is made on the Apple platform. As for their two competitors in the mobile software market, Android is already an Open-Source platform with users creating their own software, and Windows has from sheer numbers most independent developers in their corner already.

But a new player has entered the game.

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