The Mac App Store and the Increasing Simplification of OS X



Apple is simplifying and refining OS X with primarily one user group in mind: the decidedly non-nerdy.

The Mac App Store is the current epitome of where Apple wants to take OS X and the Mac user experience. This is the first of some significant steps towards the next evolution of Apple’s desktop software.

It used to be that buying and installing an app was a chore. But now, with the Mac App Store, it’s as simple as finding an app you want and clicking a button. Just like buying a song or renting a movie in iTunes. The whole experience is familiar, easy, and even a little bit fun.

And so it will go with Apple’s desktop software. OS X will not be advancing towards touch-screen desktops, 3D monitors, and power-packed Finder features. Instead it will be getting more and more simple — with heavy emphasis on a simple way to find your files and applications, the ability to focus in on one app at a time, and other features built for the non-nerdy.

Apple has worked very hard to keep the user experience of iOS as simple and straightforward as possible. And it is the simplicity of iOS that will influence OS X 10.7 more than anything else. In an article on Macworld, Andy Ihnatko says:

I recently read something about Walt Disney that seemed very familiar. A man who worked with him said (I’m paraphrasing) Walt wanted to make sure that if you came to Disney World, you would have a fantastic time. And he succeeded. But he also wanted to make sure that you wouldn’t even have the option of having a bad time.

That’s everything you need to know about Apple. Its roller coaster is smooth, clean, and well-maintained.

Of course simplification and a better user experience is not the only goal of the Mac App Store. It’s also there for economic purposes. (Duh!)

  1. Apple wants to encourage Mac users to discover and use new software.
  2. Apple also wants to promote growth and income for the Macintosh ecosystem.

Encouraging Discovery

The average consumer spends very little money or time buying and tinkering with new software for their computer. In fact, many people are simply using Web apps for their basic computing needs: Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Amazon, wordpress.com, etc. — all in the browser. The average person does not go out looking for new software. They buy and use what their friends tell them to get or what their job requires that they get.

One of Apple’s primary selling points of the iPhone and iPad is all the things you can do on it. When people find and use apps through the iOS App Store they become more “hooked” to their iPhone and/or iPad. Put another way: the apps a person uses on their device are precisely what make the device valuable to the user.

And the same is true for the Mac. However, up until yesterday, finding and installing apps for your Mac was not nearly as easy as finding and installing apps on your iPhone or iPad.

The problem had nothing to do with availability or quality of 3rd-party Mac software. To the contrary, OS X has an outstanding community of 3rd-party developers. You and I have no problem finding and using new tools to make our day-to-day computing experience better, but the average consumer does.

And so Apple wants to introduce the non-nerdy to all the fantastic software that is available for OS X. Which is precisely the goal of Mac App Store.

And it appears to be working. The Mac App Store launched with 1,000 apps in it. In its first 24 hours over 1,000,000 apps were downloaded from the Mac App Store. And of the 1,000 unique apps only a few were brand new.

Alfred — an app which I suspect most of you reading this are familiar with — saw over 30,000 downloads on the first day in the Mac App Store. Evernote — another app I assume you’ve heard of — saw an 1,800% increase in their new-user sign-up rate.

My point here is that these well-known and established apps still did great in the Mac App Store on the first day. It’s not just the new apps that are being downloaded for the sake of their newness. There is still a large and un-tapped section of the market for 3rd-parting Macintosh software.

Promoting Growth

At the end of the day Apple is still just a company doing business and trying to make a buck.

Apple’s integrated and easy-to-use storefronts have proven to be successful on every level. The iOS App Store has seen over one billion apps downloaded. iTunes is the number one music store in the world. These store fronts are providing significant income for Apple, developers, and artists. Not to mention a very easy-to-use store for users.

Why not take that same business model and apply it to the already thriving ecosystem of Macintosh desktop software? It will no doubt be a huge success for Apple, 3rd-party developers, and users.

  • Apple wins because they now get a 30% cut of all sales on the Mac App Store.

  • Developers win because they’ve got a significantly larger market to sell their products to with highly increased discoverability. And though they only get 70% of the sale it is better to sell 5 applications at 70% your normal profit than 2 applications at 100%.

    Moreover, for software sold through the Mac App Store developers do not have to deal with managing their own serial number and payment processing systems, file hosting, and even (at least to a degree) tier-1 support.

    It will be interesting to see how many developers stop selling their software on their own site and begin to sell exclusively on the Mac App Store. Pixelmator, TapeDeck and CoverSutra have already made the switch to being sold exclusively on the Mac App Store. How long until this becomes the norm?

  • Users win because they now have a one-stop shop to find and install new software, thus increasing the personal value of their Mac experience. (Savvy readers will know I have a soft spot for fine software.)

In many ways the Mac App Store is today what the iTunes music store was in 2003 — a new storefront to help promote and grow an already-established industry that could use a bit of a boost.