Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mac App Store: Get iOS Apps for Your Mac.

I have recently spent time looking at the Mac App Store and, well, I really love the concept (see my article "Things I'd Like To See in Mac OS XI 11.0") and it appears just as I've imagined. It even figures out what apps I have installed on my Mac despite the fact that I haven't actually bought any Mac applications from the Store yet, and marks them as "Installed"! Nice!

However, one thing I don't think I like at this stage is that many developers have simply ported their iOS titles over to the Mac and don't make much sense on a Mac desktop environment, or on your actual desk, because they are specifically designed for or require an iOS device in order to be useful, particularly if the apps continue to appear as if they are intended for sale in the (iTunes) App Store for a mobile audience.

Some apps contain their entire content in one window, as if that window is an iOS device's entire display. (Well, for games, you'd expect that sort of thing, and most games written for personal computers really do need, and effectively use, the screen real estate. But for apps that look more like HyperCard stacks... that doesn't do it for me!)

Some Mac apps are being labelled with "HD" in their names, despite the fact that the app is not targeted to run on an iPad. So what is it supposed to mean to Mac users when an app is labelled "HD"? (Highlighting my concern that I had with iPad in the first place, I think this "HD" thing is simply silly, and won't last as new iOS devices, like Apple TV or iPad, iPhone, iPod devices with higher-resolution output, enter the market).

Some software featured on the Store are simply not value for money. I have noticed this nice app for visualising the space on your hard disks, and noticed how much it sells for on the Store. More interestingly, I also managed to find an alternative product which, despite the fact that it isn't a Macintosh-native binary, does pretty much the same job in very much the same way, for free (as in beer).

As an aside, there are some limitations with the delivery and licensing of apps from the Mac App Store: you cannot purchase apps for PowerPC-based Macs, since the Mac App Store requires Mac OS X 10.6.3 or later, which can only run on an Intel-based Mac, and the packages provided by the Store do not offer Universal Binaries; the apps featured on the Store cannot run as administrator (or any other user) as per the Mac App Store submission guidelines—you may find that out-of-Store products may have more capabilities or features than those in the Store itself; software licensing for products sold on the Mac App Store may be radically different in both context and implementation than out-of-Store product versions—the Mac App Store only supports (at this time) one-user non-expiring product-associated licenses that are tied to your Apple ID; there is no try-before-you-buy facility in the Mac App Store, only screen shots and a biased description of the product.

But the most annoying aspect of it all: are we about to have thousands of useless junk iOS apps appear on the Mac App Store too?

To me, it'll mean looking a bit harder for the ideal Macintosh app in a sea of "next generation" Macintosh apps that were originally designed and targeted for mobile devices. And meanwhile, all the real, serious, heavy-duty Macintosh apps will still have to come from outside the Mac App Store... perhaps a better place to look for your next software title, for now.

Update: Apple have actually released their professional apps to the Mac App Store, which shows that Apple indeed mean to make the store attractive to not just junk app developers.

Article last updated 17th November, 2012: added some details about software limitations and licensing; added links to (a couple of) Apple's professional apps on the Mac App Store.


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