Spend Spend Spend: Early Impressions of the Mac App Store

It’s been just over a week since OS 10.6.6 dropped for desktop and portable Macs, and with my usual early adopter flair, it’s taken me about that to update. So I’ve only just started to play with the big woop of the rollout – the big brother to the App Store, the feature that has turned iOS devices into such customisable, adaptable street computers.

The Mac App Store has a clean, clear interface that’s a lot like the iTunes version, complete with a front page showing the heavy hitters and featured products. Installed apps are clearly marked, which can serve as a handy reminder for what you have cluttering up your hard drive. It’s easy to browse and search, and each app has it’s own page complete with screen shots and customer reviews.

As with iTunes, the App Store hooks seamlessly into your Apple ID account, which turns the purchase of an app into a disturbingly easy one-click process. A flip-and-drop animation puts your shiny new thing straight into the Dock.

Pricing has been a major factor in early news coverage of the Store. Apple have cleverly broken up their iWork and iLife suites so that it’s now possible to just get what you want. I jumped at the chance to upgrade my copy of GarageBand to the latest version for under a tenner. The whole iLife package is normally four times that. Similarly, Aperture, Apple’s pro photography app is now priced at £44.99. That’s quite a drop from last weeks box tag of £170.

Of course, the speed at which the App Store appeared seems to have taken some developers by surprise. Pixelmator, Smith Micro’s brilliant Photoshop-buster, is front and centre on the home page, at a very tempting £17.99. But subscriber mailouts a day or so after the new OS dropped offered it at $29.99 – a couple of quid more expensive. Granted, the mail also makes the point that Pixelmator is cross-platform compatible, but a bit of a heads up about their prominent place on the new outlet couldn’t have hurt.

There are also a lot of big names that don’t have a presence on the store. No Final Cut Pro. No Final Draft, Scrivener, VLC or Toast. But it’s early days yet, and as at least one developer has already stated, the accelerated timeframe of getting the App Store up has meant a lot of product simply wasn’t ready for the launch. I’ll be very interested to see how the product lines grow over time.

For now, though, the App Store looks like a solid and easy way for me to blow money. Apart from GarageBand, I’ve upgraded Xtralean’s lovely little graphics app ImageWell to version 4, and started playing with the free SketchBook Express from Autodesk, which is the best free drawing program I’ve seen in a while.

But no, I’m still not tempted by Angry Birds.