October 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Mac App Store: Computers Pretending To Be Smartphones?

Building on the success of its iTunes App Store for iPhones, iPods and iPads, Steve Jobs announced on Tuesday that Apple will launch the Mac App Store, which will sell software that runs on Macintosh desktop and laptop computers, within the next 90 days.

“Is this the end of the Mac as an open platform?” lamented NYU visiting scholar Dave Winer.

That’s a bit of a stretch. Apple would have to be crazy to stop selling desktops and laptops with the ability to run regular desktop software — for now, anyway. The scenario Winer describes is not impossible, because this new Mac App platform will give developers of simpler apps an incentive to develop Apple Apps rather an regular installable software, even if it means giving 30 percent of their revenue to Apple.

The people who make the software and apps we love will be able to adapt something close to the same software across all Apple platforms, so that consumers — assuming they use Apple products — would be able run the same stuff they paid for on one platform on their phone, tablet, computer, and soon, their television. To an extent, this sort of app portability is already possible if you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, and/or iPad. Now it’s the computer’s turn.

Apple’s presentation, as reported by Slashgear and others, included a smattering of details about Apple’s upcoming Mac App Store:

Best place to discover apps

One-click downloads

Free & paid apps (70/30 split)

Automatic installation

Automatic app updates

Apps licensed for use on your personal Macs

As odd as it may seem that the world has embraced devices that only run software from a single store, it’s even odder that computers — whose main advantage is the ability to run whatever code the user wants it too — will now join Apple’s smartphone-derived app ecosystem too.

Computers pretending to be smartphones: Who would have predicted this?

However, it cannot be stressed enough that nothing about this means Mac computers won’t be able to run third-party software (i.e. regular software not purchased from iTunes). For now, this is an extension of Apple’s app ecosystem onto another major platform, which is big news — and good news for people who already use lots of Apple devices.

In the long term, only the market will decide whether consumers will still want general-purpose computers that can run anything, or computers that act more like smartphones.

Photo of Apple CEO Steve Jobs announcing the Mac App Store courtesy of Flickr/jediduke