Apple’s new Mac App Store has the potential to revolutionize computer software—and it’s already started. Software discovery, purchase, and installation are simpler than ever before in the decades of computer history. However, the Store is far from perfect, and some significant changes must occur before this revolution truly matures.
One important feature is bundles. Apple’s iLife and iWork applications are sold separately in the Store, rather than collectively, as with their retail versions. In some ways, this is easier for the user: if only one app is desired, the others can be ignored. However, if a user wants all the apps, a simple one-click bundle would be far easier than downloading each app individually. If a slight discount was offered as well, this could also benefit users and encourage more app downloads. The feature would also help companies such as Microsoft, which currently only sells its Office apps bundled, migrate to the Store.
A common criticism of the App Store is its restrictions on the design of apps. Various techniques such as private API usage and kernel extension installation are prohibited, but some apps require them. Many developers are waiting to submit their programs because of these restrictions. Apple could consider each app’s use of these features, and decide whether it is dangerous or appropriate in that particular case.
Another missing feature is paid updates. The Store only allows free updates to apps, requiring that large updates either be given away or released in the form of a new app. This second option causes problems, as the price for users with previous versions must equal that charged to new users. The ability to simply set a price on an update would be a nice improvement.
The update system is also imperfect for another reason: while previously-downloaded programs are recognized as “Installed,” these cannot be updated through the App Store’s system. This may seem a backward-facing observation, as the feature will become less important in the long run, but it will continue to be missed as long as existing apps still migrate to the store.
On the iOS platform, Apple added a feature called “In-app Purchasing,” which allows content for an application to be purchased within the program itself. If brought to the Mac, it would alleviate some problems and cause others. Most independently-sold apps include options to purchase the full apps from within the free version. Some, such as Alfred, are waiting for this feature in the App Store. This is in many ways preferable to selling two versions of an app, which is also generally forbidden on the Store. There are many other helpful uses for in-app purchasing. However, it has also led to the rise of usually horrible “freemium” apps, and ridiculous features such as purchasable level skipping in games. A solution to these problems would be to allow in-app purchases only in paid apps, as Apple originally mandated on iOS, but this would rule out the case mentioned earlier.
All of these features would improve the Store, and help solidify it as the definite source for Mac apps. They would also help bring in more developers, further increasing its importance. Hopefully, Apple has planned these changes, and will bring them to the App Store soon.