Apple slates Jan. 6 launch for Mac App Store

Will push new software store as free download via OS X updater

Apple today announced that it would open its Mac App Store on Jan. 6, 2011, beating its self-imposed deadline by several weeks.

Earlier reports had incorrectly pegged the opening to Monday, Dec. 13.

"The App Store revolutionized mobile apps," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a statement Thursday, talking about the iPhone's online market that debuted in 2008. "We hope to do the same for PC apps with the Mac App Store."

Apple will add Mac App Store support to users of OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, with a free download via the operating system's built-in update mechanism, presumably either on or near the e-mart's Thursday, Jan. 6, launch. The store will be available in 90 countries, and presumably almost that many currencies, at its opening.

Developers have until Dec. 31 to submit their software to get their wares into the Mac App Store for its debut.

Jobs announced the Mac App Store during a press event Oct. 20, saying then that the store would launch "within 90 days," which put the debut deadline in the second half of next month.

Analysts have described Apple's new App Store as "disruptive" to the traditional software channel, which relies on retail and online sales; many Mac developers sell their wares via the latter directly to customers.

In October, and again today, Jobs said that Apple would take a 30% cut of all revenues in the new store, the same percentage it collects from software makers who sell products in the current iOS App Store.

Buyers will be able to purchase, download and install the software with a single click, and run them on any owned Mac, said Apple. Updates to those programs will also be delivered via the store.

Apple's comment that the new store will be "available to Mac OS X Snow Leopard users as a free download through Software Update" prompted some to assume that iTunes, the music player platform used to deliver mobile apps to iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users, won't be part of the purchasing loop on the Mac.

Apple did not immediately reply to a request for confirmation on a non-iTunes delivery mechanism for Mac software.

The Mac App Store unveiling coincides with the opening of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which also officially kicks off Jan. 6.

In the past, Apple has timed announcements to compete with news coming from CES, most famously when Jobs stood on a Macworld Conference & Expo stage Jan. 9, 2007, and showed the crowd the first iPhone. News of the iPhone's introduction quickly overwhelmed the buzz coming from CES.

As blogger Joe Wilcox pointed out on BetaNews earlier today, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer will open CES with a keynote the evening of Jan. 5. "You can be sure [Apple's] timing is deliberate," Wilcox wrote.

According to reports in the New York Times and elsewhere, Ballmer will focus his CES keynote on Windows-based tablets that will compete with Apple's iPad, and on Windows 8, the next iteration of Microsoft's biggest money maker. Most analysts and pundits have pegged Windows 8's release for 2012.

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 gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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