There’s an App Store for That …

Macintosh App Store
Apple's Macintosh App Store

Apple unveiled its App Store for the Macintosh today.

Users of Apple computers, running Snow Leopard (Mac OS X, v.10.6), can download this application by selecting “Software Update …” from the Mac Menu. Additional information is available at: http://www.apple.com/mac/app-store/. The point of the App Store is to help Mac users find, purchase, download, install, re-install (if necessary), and update software. Apple says that applications purchased at the App Store install automatically, without an Administrative login, and can be more easily updated through notifications sent to the user in the App Store.

So, the App Store is designed to pick off where iTunes and the App Store for the iPhone left off. With the iTunes store, people can buy music, video, and audio books. With the App Store for the iOS products (iPhone and iPad), people can buy apps for these mobile devices. These stores have been phenomenally successful, with the iTunes store now virtually dominating the music scene that is becoming increasingly digital. (Other stores for music exist, most notably Amazon, but Apple’s iTunes is considered to be the largest, based on the data that has been released.)

Genealogy Titles in the App Store
Genealogy Titles in the App Store

Apple is in the process of taking everything it can learn from its experience with the iPhone and the iPad and bringing it to the desktop. The Macintosh App Store is part of this, but so is the forthcoming OS X release, Lion, which releases this Summer. The focus is on ease-of-use, simple interfaces, and quick ways to get what you want. This not only serves the desires of its customers, it also promises to provide Apple with more revenue.

Apple has firmly entrenched itself at the center of the impulse purchasing methodology. With the App Store, they are putting computer users a click or two away from software purchases of which they stand to make 30%. Since it’s easier for customers, they may gravitate to it, and may even make more purchases than they would have otherwise. In many cases, these purchases are shifting from the vendors’ own sites to Apple’s App Store, meaning there had been no markdown for a middleman, and now there will be one. However, the App Store puts ones product in front of more eyes, so it may net positive for most software vendors.

Date Calculator in the App Store
Date Calculator in the App Store

In the genealogy world, there are a couple of apps of note already in the App Store:

  • Mac Family Tree (links to the App Store) — This is one of the industry leaders on the Mac platform, now at version 6.0.10. They are running a special: 50% off (or $24.99) in the App Store until January 13th.
  • Family Tree Maker for Mac (links to the App Store) — The best-selling genealogy software in the world, FTM is a package that many genealogy purists hate, but its increasing integration with the Ancestry databases makes it very attractive, and many professionals like its interface or its reports. It is newly available for the Mac, and available at the App Store currently for $99.00.
  • Date Calculator (links to the App Store) — This one was a new one for me, which is probably precisely why they wanted to be in the App Store as early as they are: To gain mind share. They bill it as “a date utility for genealogists” which converts “any date … between Gregorian, Julian, Hebrew, and French Republic calendars and find its day of the week.” It also calculated the time between two dates, and also works with “fuzzy dates,” say a month or a year. $9.99.

The App Store and the upcoming Lion release of the Mac OS, are Apple’s play to keep their perceived leadership position products and technology. While they charge a premium for their computers, tablets, and phones, their argument is that people are paying for value. Love or hate the Apple model, iTunes and iOS App Stores have defined a new model of electronic mass distribution with a boutique feel. The iOS App Store has an amazing array of Apps, but it’s definitely a juried list. While Apple takes some flak for this, the fact is that the store is more family oriented and less likely to offend, and this helps Apple gain trust and sell products. It’s a store, not a library, so it’s difficult to say that they are engaging in censorship.

As for the future of all of these purchases on the App Store, there are a few questions I have. I will be able to get updates to my apps on the App Store, but what if I migrate away from the store, or even close that account. I am assuming that my purchase history would be wiped out, and there would be no way to “re-download” or get a supported upgrade for my product. Will there be a returns policy that will allow someone to “return” software that clearly does not work as advertised?

I like the idea of managed upgrades, and I’m comfortable with purchasing software online. (Who needs to have a box shipped halfway around the world only to gather dust on top of my book case?) But this kind of purchase always has some level of risk in that the installation package only exists during the installation, and then it is erased. Is it possible that the touted re-installation might not be available when I need it? Just things to consider as one ponders the future of software sales.

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