Amazon today launched a Mac-specific application download store that will compete with Apple's nearly five-month-old Mac App Store.
The new subsection of Amazon's massive online store, dubbed "Mac Software Downloads," kicked off quietly Thursday. Amazon has long offered software downloads for both Windows and Mac customers, but this was the first time that the company called out its Mac-centric "store."
The Seattle, Wash. retailer, however, apparently did not want to goad Apple into another legal battle by mimicking its rival's "App Store" moniker: The two companies are already in court over Amazon's "Appstore for Android," which Apple claims violates its trademark.
Unlike the Mac App Store, which Apple opened in early January, Amazon's includes the popular Office for Mac line from Microsoft.
Amazon also offered Office for Mac 2011 downloads at slightly lower prices than the boxed copies, selling the three-license Home and Student Family Pack for $115 via download versus $117.28 in a box.
Apple's Mac App Store does not carry Office. Last year, when Apple first announced it would create a Mac online store to match its iOS-centric App Store, Microsoft said only that it was "working to understand the impact of the new app store," but would not commit to trying Apple's distribution channel.
A sticking point may be Apple's cut: The company takes 30% of all revenues generated by sales in the Mac App Store.
The only Microsoft-made application on the Mac App Store is the Windows Phone 7 Connector, a free program that synchronizes media content between a Mac and a smartphone powered by Microsoft's mobile operating system.
Amazon's store shows nearly 250 titles, the majority of them productivity applications, although it also stocks 46 games. By comparison, Apple's Mac App Store claims over 400 titles in just the "Business" category alone.
Like the Mac App Store, Amazon's lets buyers re-download purchased digital software an unlimited number of times. But Amazon does not provide an update mechanism for downloaded apps, a feature Apple has touted. Last week, however, a security researcher criticized the Mac App Store for retaining old versions of some programs, notably Opera Software's Opera browser, when newer editions are available directly from the developer.
Amazon's app store supports Mac OS X 10.5, aka Leopard and newer; Apple's works only on Macs running the newer OS X 10.6, better known as Snow Leopard.
Amazon launched the Mac store with a $5-off promotion that runs through June 1.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.