Apple opens Mac App Store, discounts own software

'iOS-ization' of Mac begins, says analyst

As promised, Apple opened its Mac App Store today, stocking it with more than 1,000 games, utilities and productivity programs.

To access the new e-market, users must be running Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, and download and install the 10.6.6. update that Apple issued today.

"We think users are going to love this innovative new way to discover and buy their favorite apps," said CEO Steve Jobs in a statement.

Although access to the store is through is a new application -- complete with docked icon that appears beside the Finder -- and not via iTunes, customers must link their iTunes account to the Mac App Store to purchase programs. Those without an iTunes account can download free apps after entering an existing Apple ID account username and password, or creating a new account.

The Mac App Store interface will be familiar to anyone who has downloaded apps from the iOS App Store to an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Apple categorizes the software, offers best-seller lists and staff picks, and provides a search tool for rooting out a specific piece of software.

A single click downloads and installs a program, a process that does not require users to type their administrator's password, as is often demanded by traditional software installations.

Users will be notified when an update to any of their downloaded apps is available, as in the iOS App Store.

Apple has placed several of its own applications in the new store, including the Pages, Numbers and Keynote programs from its iWork '09 suite. Each is priced separately at $19.99, a savings of $19 for the three over the boxed suite's $79 list price. Apple also priced its Aperture 3 photo manipulation program at $79.99, less than half the $199 list price of the traditional package.

As of mid-day Thursday, the top paid app in the store was Rovio's Angry Birds, a $4.99 puzzle game that's the rage on smartphones. The most popular free program was Twitter's Mac client, formerly known as Tweetie.

For the purchase price, users can install an application on up to the five personal Macs, the maximum number that can be linked to a single iTunes account and associated credit card. Apps can be re-downloaded free-of charge to new machines or existing Macs after a debilitating crash.

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