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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