Coincident with the release of Mac OS X 10.6.6, the Mac App Store debuted this morning. By providing an outlet for application developers to sell their wares online (in exchange for a 30 percent cut of the proceeds), Apple is offering people an alternative to traditional distribution mechanisms, one that taps into the need for instant gratification.
But the Mac App Store is likely to run into the same problem that I’ve found with the company’s iTunes App Store for iOS devices: As the number of available applications grows, the store becomes increasingly difficult to browse, and is exponentially less useful with every month that passes. For example, on the morning the Mac App Store opened its doors, it offered 94 applications for sale in the “Business” category. But there’s no way to compare applications side-by-side; the only information that appears in the Mac App Store category listing is the name of the application and its price.
Then try to browse the iTunes App Store, with 6,000-plus apps as of this morning under the Business category. Until Apple gets around to reimplementing application subcategories – which apparently disappeared around the time that iTunes 9 was released – finding anything that you don’t already know the name of is going to be a terribly frustrating process. (Note that although a pane for subcategories is present in iTunes 10.1.1, subcategories aren’t actually defined. In other words, until a team of interns can sort the application collections into something useful, the functionality is there, but pointlessly so.)
The Mac App Store may be just what the consumer market wants – if one assumes that the average consumer has hours to waste. For the rest of us, it looks like it’s going to be a pointless geegaw for the foreseeable future, and until Apple decides to provide us with a more granular look at application listings, it’s going to remain that way.
UPDATED: A closer look at the Mac App Store is here.