By Shadoe Huard

October 25th 2010

The Mac as an IOS Device   

While there’s been lots of excitement around the newly announced Mac App Store, there’s also been a huge sense of caution in taking Apple’s closed ecosystem to the desktop.  Gizmodo spoke of a “completely controlled platform”, the coming of 1984.  Over at GDGT, Ryan Block wondered whether there’d even be enough apps to actually sell through the store proper.  While both raise legitimate concerns, I think they’re also both missing the point of what an App Store could be and who it is for.  

If we think as the Mac App Store as simply a gateway for existing applications and their ilk, it almost seems illogical since:

1. Huge productivity apps (like photoshop) are simply to complex to exist in the simple access world of the App Store.  Never mind that there is no apparent reason why big software developers like Adobe would need an intermediary like Apple to distribute their product.

3. The App Store Guidelines( well, restrictions) don’t allow for lots of the complex things we like our desktop apps to do. 

2. Revenue split:  A lot of applications for the desktop are already distributed for free or paid for through their own websites.  Why give up revenue when you can take care of the distribution yourself?

The Mac App Store is not for desktop applications as we know them.  While there will be incentive for smaller developers who can benefit from the exposure to jump onto the store, there just doesn’t seem to be any real advantage for most companies.  Unlike the Iphone and Ipad, the App Store isn’t the one and only way to get onto people’s computers and into their wallets.  

From that perspective, Block’s argument makes sense; what can you sell through the store, and just who is it for anyway? 

App developers, of course.

Apple doesn’t really want Mac OS developers to bring over desktop “applications” to the App Store.  It wants IOS developers to bring their “Apps” over to the desktop.  Again, Jobs and Co. are “taking it back to the Mac”.  While it’s easy to see how an app store for desktop applications can go awry, it’s also equally simple to see how popular IOS apps stand to be just as popular on the desktop.

Take for example Plants and Animals, available on both the Ipad and Iphone.  While it is already available on the desktop through services likes Steam, it’s popularity largely exists within the confines of the App Store ecosystem, and another outlet to that system, namely on the desktop, is nothing but upside for thousands of IOS developers.  The Mac App Store effectively transforms the Mac into another IOS device with an already huge install base, a lot of whom are probably already familiar with the App Store.

For IOS developers, staying within the Apple ecosystem (and it’s revenue split) is exactly where they want to be; it’s where the customers are.  People who want to purchase regular desktop software know that’s it’s available through the internet.  People who want to play Doodle Jump on their laptops know to shop for it in the App Store.

The Mac App Store isn’t primarily for desktop applications in the usual sense, it’s for the hundreds of thousands of original and innovative IOS applications that don’t yet have a home outside mobile devices.  

*** I’m particularly excited to see photo/image editing apps you can find on the App Store transition to the desktop.  Image editing on the desktop is a space where lots of innovation can be made, especially in terms of simplicity and ease of use.  Photoshop doesn’t have to be the only answer when you just want one specific tool for treating your images

Posted at 1:51am and tagged with: app store, IOS, mac, apple, developers, games, iphone, ipad, software, OS X,.