Is mobile innovation wagging the desktop dog? That certainly seems to be the case when it comes to software distribution. Today Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) provided a bit more detail on its plans to offer a Mac version of its popular App Store for the iPhone and iPad.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs had announced the Mac App Store back in October as part of the new MacBook Air rollout. The Mac App Store will be part of the next version of the Mac's operating system, codenamed "Lion." Although Lion isn't due till next summer, Jobs said Apple would bring the Mac App Store out ahead of time in January as a free download. Today Apple made the release date official.
"The App Store revolutionized mobile apps," Jobs said in a statement. "We hope to do the same for PC apps with the Mac App Store by making finding and buying PC apps easy and fun. We cant wait to get started on January 6."
An online app store for digital software might prove especially useful to MacBook Air users since the device has no optical drive.
As with the mobile App Store, the Mac version will offer developers the same 70/30 revenue split on purchases made at the online store. Apple takes care of hosting, marketing and credit card fees for its 30 percent cut.
Analyst Roger Kay said mobile users may have to readjust their expectations if they think Mac App Store is going to be dominated by free and low-priced software as the iPhone App Store is.
"We've gotten used to calling these 'apps' because they're mostly little programs on small devices," Kay, analyst with Endpoint Technology Associates, told InternetNews.com. "But when you start talking about desktop 'applications' they aren't going all be lightweight apps, they don't need to be. I'm sure there will be many free and 99 cents applications, but the Mac App Store should attract a lot of full-fledged applications that are going to be priced higher."
Both Kay and Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin said they think it's inevitable Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will follow Apple's with some kind of Windows App Store.
"They haven't said they will, but I think Microsoft has to do this at some point, even if it means following Apple's lead again. They see where the market is going," said Kay.
"I hope Microsoft does something like this and if it doesn't one of their big OEMs should because it's going to be such a competitive advantage for Apple," he said. "When you buy a new Windows 7 PC, wouldn't it be great if you could just browse right away to find new software?"