We'll see the reality in a few hours, [UPDATE: Mac App Store is open now, grab it] but there's already some insight into what to expect from Apple's new Mac App Store when it opens at 12 (noon) Eastern today. Critically, it's likely we'll see some iOS developers port their apps at App Store prices, while existing Mac developers attempt to maintain classic pricing levels.
Mac App Store, wut?
Similar to the App Store for iOS devices, the Mac App Store will sell you application software you can run on your Mac. Apple will take 30 per cent of the retail price, developers will keep the rest. You'll be able to use purchased software on all your Macs. Here's a First Look at the new software store.
"The App Store revolutionized mobile apps," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "We hope to do the same for PC apps with the Mac App Store by making finding and buying PC apps easy and fun. We can't wait to get started on January 6."
The Mac App Store will be available in 90 countries at launch and will feature paid and free apps in categories like Education, Games, Graphics & Design, Lifestyle, Productivity and Utilities.
iWork 11 will ship today
I can't guarantee this, but there's strong evidence to suggest we'll see iWork 11 be announced and made available today via the App Store.This is because Apple updated the Keynote Remote last night, which includes a new logo graphic which says "2011". That's set the blogs chattering, and I think suggests iWork 11 will be a flagship app in the new Mac App Store.
App Store will be big business
Almost everything Apple touches turns into a big business -- even the second iteration of Apple TV has already sold a substantial million units -- the Mac App Store will be no different. A recent report from Citibank claimed Apple's existing App Store will generate up to $2 billion in revenue in 2011 alone. With the introduction of the new Mac App Store, expect significant upside here.
This is already interesting developers. Andreas Dolinsek at Sonico Mobile already develops for iOS devices. He thinks this will be Apple's next big thing, telling me, "Currently we are developing only for iPhone and iPad, but Mac App Store is a big thing with a huge potential target audience for the apps."
Twitter certainly is. We can expect Twitter to introduce its own Twit client for the Mac via the Mac App Store today, according to a screenshot leaked by a website last night.
iOS comes to the Mac
There's a potential tidal wave of iOS apps that could make a logical jump to the Mac -- after all, it is only a question of using Apple's provided dev tools to make the move.
Take Chopper 2 for iOS, for example -- this casual game is on its way (no Flash required). Even more interesting, you can control the game with your iPhone -- anyone see an Apple TV potential here? (I'm hoping to see Angry Birds for Mac, I think that will be popular).
Purchasing will be iTunes-like
No great surprise: You'll need an AppleID account to purchase from the Mac App Store. There will also be parental controls and age ratings, also user-submitted reviews. In the latter case, you'll have to have purchased a Mac app yourself in order to post a review.
Apple will also offer in-house reviews and approval of apps, just as it does within the iOS App Store.
"All apps submitted to the Mac App Store will be reviewed based on the criteria outlined in the Mac App Review Guidelines and the Mac Developer Program License Agreement. Apps that do not adhere to the Guidelines will need to be modified before they can be approved for distribution on the Mac App Store," Apple's guidelines state.
App Store App
The App Store won't be accessed from within iTunes, however, instead it will be presented as its very own application with its own Dock icon. Don't expect support for In-app purchases or Game Center. One good thing: Mac OS X 10.6.6 will let you search for apps needed to open unsupported files.
It seems likely the App Store will be introduced within a Mac OS software update. If this is the case, then we could see this as a test of Apple's new server farm.
Some developers are worried
The developers at Rixstep have open source connected to their DNA. They are extremely concerned the App Store may see Apple take over application retail on the Mac, a starting point toward a day when Apple will be able to decide what software does or does not run on the platform.
"We believe the long-term goal is to bind all third party software to the platform," a spokesman said.
Others point out the store will grow the market and reject the notion Apple will take over complete control. Most agree it will become pretty mandatory as a retailer for most developers trying to sell software for the Mac.
ZDNet's David Gewirtz adds,
Mac software has historically been priced on a parity with other desktop software. That means small products are about $20. Utilities run in the $50-60 range. Games in the $50 range. Productivity packages and creative tools in the hundreds, and specialty software well, the sky's the limit.
"Tomorrow, the sky will fall. Tomorrow, the iOS developers move in and the traditional Mac developers better stick their heads between their legs and kiss those price points goodbye."
DragThing developer, James Thomson is concerned at app review, though, noting: "A lot of apps might not even be approved under the guidelines."
Mac Store Apps are different
"We will need to make a separate version of each app for delivery to the App Store," Rich Siegel at BareBones Software has told me. "The Mac App Store represents an opportunity to put our products in front of a larger audience," he also said.
The Mac App Store transformation
The introduction of an immediate software purchasing process that's easily available to 50 million users will generate huge interest. It makes software acquisition as easy as buying a track off of iTunes.
Given the super-abundance of games on the iPhone, it is no stretch of the imagination to predict that people will use the App Store to pick up the latest casual game sensation for maybe $2.99, but in doing so will also become used to visiting the App Store to make more serious software purchases. Could these even include Aperture? (Update -- it does, Aperture is available now from the App Store.
TechCrunch's MG Siegler observes:
[The Mac app store] may give rise to a whole new crop of small apps that otherwise might get lost in the sea of web apps or not exist at all. You could certainly make the case that great new services like Instagram would have never existed without the iPhone App Store. Perhaps the Mac App Store will lead to developers creating new experiences and a new crop of apps as well.
Delicious Monster, developer Will Shipley on the App Store
Shipley submitted his Delicious Library media-cataloguing app "about a week after Apple first announced the store" and had to revise it three times before getting an approval around Dec. 22.
"Virtually all of Apple's applications on the Mac and on iOS use undocumented APIs, and they are creating an uneven playing field by denying lots of extra functionality to third-party developers."
Despite this, Shipley calls the App Store a "95% great thing" for developers seeking customers.
(Graphic Converter maker, Thorsten Lemke, also had to submit his app three times to the store.)
There will be a pricing conflict. iOS developers are looking to make their apps into Mac desktop snacks, as revealed by The Pocket Cyclone. Most iOS remakes will cost under $5.
Mac developers meanwhile are attempting to maintain the same price levels. RealMac Software's RapidWeaver will cost $39.99, though the company has dropped prices on another product and is making the incredibly useful Courier application a Mac App Store exclusive available for just $4.99.
What RealMac Software's moves mean is that developers are already exploring hierarchies on App prices. In the end I consider it likely we'll pay more for those powerful or essential apps, even more for specialized apps, but that we'll also see a huge surge in development (and sales) of small, lightweight apps and casual games. And not one of them will use Flash.
Goodbye to upgrade pricing
Applications become more focused -- why build in little-used bells and whistles when another developer has an app for that?
This will also mean applications will become more specific and focused, and also suggests that paid upgrade pricing will slowly become a thing of the past. Expect major product upgrades to debut as new products. For consumers the positive here is that software prices between iOS and Mac-based pricing schemas will inevitably harmonise. (Which is a lengthy way of saying I expect prices will decline).
Despite that it may reduce prices for applications, the App Store should also invigorate software sales -- this will boost the market for developers as Apple creates the biggest viable online software retail model. That Apple offers developers a viable way to make money, rather than vague promises of success is a big deal. It is a key advantage against all its competitors.
Well, that's what I've collected so far. I'm keen to learn more, so please feel free to speak up in comments below if you have anything to say you think might be of use to other readers. Also check back later for my initial thoughts on the Mac App Store when it launches today -- just follow me now on Twitter and I'll let you know when the next item in this blog gets published here on Computerworld.