We’ve known for a few weeks that Apple would launch their new Mac App Store on January 6, hitting their goal of launching it within 90 days of its formal unveiling at an event in October. And now we appear to know what time it will hit tomorrow: 12 PM ET, 9 AM PT, according to The Loop, whose sources are usually spot-on on such things. In other words, tomorrow morning, Apple kicks off phase 3 of their quest to kill the compact disc.
Phase 1 of this quest began in 2003 when Apple first launched the iTunes Music Store. At launch, the store only had some 200,000 pieces of music to download, so it hardly threatened the booming music CD sales of the time. But that quickly changed, and now iTunes is the biggest music retailer, with downloads far outpacing CD sales.
Phase 2 began 5 years later, in 2008. It was at that time that Apple unveiled the first MacBook Air — a super-lightweight notebook with no built-in optical drive. Initially, people were wowed by the machine, but that quickly dried up as performance issues kept traditional MacBooks on top. But the newly revamped MacBook Air, launched late last year, fixes those performance issues. And with it, Apple has also included a way to let people install software (such as re-installing OS X) by USB drive, further eliminating the need for an optical drive — something which I haven’t used on any machine in months.
And that brings us to Phase 3, the Mac App Store. As Apple has already made clear on their preview page, they intend to use the store to distribute their own key software, such as the iLife and iWork suite of apps. And all of these apps will be able to be purchased individually (for $14.99 if the screenshots are correct) instead of as a full (and fully-priced) bundle. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would buy the apps on disc rather than simply download them via the Mac App Store anymore. Again, death of the disc.
Of course, it remains to be seen if the Mac App Store will be a hit in the same way the App Store for iOS has been. And early signs of another recent computer-based app store launch, the Chrome Web Store, don’t seem too positive so far. But that store is obviously trying to entice people to buy and download web-based apps. And many of those apps are simply links to existing web apps. The Mac App Store will be completely different. It will feature native applications built for OS X. And it will have Apple’s widely-used payment system backing it up.
It’s also not yet known just how many of the bigger software makers will follow Apple’s lead and put their software in the Mac App Store. While it may seem to make sense for Adobe to put Photoshop in the store, and Microsoft to put Office in there, they’d have to pay 30 percent of all the revenue made off of those sales back to Apple, something which they don’t have to do distributing the software via disc.
Instead, so far, it seems mainly as if iOS app store developers are working on simple, cheap software for the new Mac-based store. And I’ve argued before that the Mac App Store may lead to a whole new class of “micro-apps” for the desktop. But if enough of these apps become popular enough — in particular, it seems like games have a shot — it will be hard for the more traditional software makers to avoid the Mac App Store. The wide-reaching distribution model may end up being too enticing.
And if that happens, the CD and the DVD will be goners, at least in terms of software distribution on the Mac platform. It’s not a coincidence that Apple has a MacBook Air on the landing page for the Mac App Store. You can almost hear Apple, as Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, looking at the compact disc and saying, “I mean to kill you!”