Apple's Mac App Store: 5 questions

Standards, security and developer issues accompany Apple's promotion of an App Store for Macs.

Apple Mac fans were both thrilled and terrified to hear that Apple would be launching an online application store for the Mac by mid-January. Just as with the iTunes App Store for iOS devices, developers will submit their applications to Apple for approval before they will be sold online through the new Mac App Store. Users will download apps just like they do for the iPhone, and the Mac App Store will deliver application updates as they become available.

But can Apple repeat with Mac the powerful iTunes-iPhone ecosystem the company has been using since the dawn of the iPod? On the one hand, the Mac App Store will allow users to quickly and easily find Mac applications. Then again, some worry this could spell doom for the Mac's current open platform model where any developer can create applications for the Mac without interference from Apple. There are still a lot of unknowns about Apple's new online retail store. Here are five questions that are top of my mind.

Will the Mac Go Closed?

So far, Apple has said you won't be forced to buy software only from the Mac App Store in the way iPhone users must buy apps only from the iTunes App Store.  Closing the Mac would also run counter to what people expect from a PC. But the lure of a captive audience able to only download software approved by Apple might be too tempting for the company to resist. Truth be told, however, the majority of users probably wouldn't notice much of a difference between a closed and open Mac.

Mac App Store: Another Nail In the Optical Drive Coffin?

So far only the MacBook Air has done away with the optical drive, but many believe the rest of the MacBook line could follow suit. Apple laptops certainly won't need a CD/DVD drive to get software anymore thanks to the Mac App Store. As more people move away from using DVDs and Blu-ray discs for storing data and video, the need for an optical drive could disappear.

How Will Apple Handle Mac App Store Rejections?

Apple's reputation for rejecting software from the iTunes App Store has been criticized many times; will the Mac App Store have the same problems? It's unlikely that Apple will have to deal with rejecting porn apps or Google Voice applications for the Mac. But that doesn't mean every app, even the well-made ones, will get Apple's stamp of approval.

Will The Mac App Store Be Good For Developers?

Apple is offering the same 70/30 revenue split for Mac developers that iOS developers get. But the bigger question will be whether the Mac App Store will help or hinder an application's visibility and, therefore, its profitability. There is some evidence that only the most popular iPhone apps make any real money in the app store while the rest make very little, according to a survey published in TechCrunch. Will the same hold true for the Mac App Store?

Antivirus in the Mac App Store?

In December 2008, Apple was heavily criticized for publishing a knowledge base article on its site telling Mac users to employ antivirus software on their computers. The announcement came after years of Apple claiming Macs didn't have the same malware problems as Windows PCs.   Apple pulled the recommendation within 24 hours after the story broke. If a knowledge base article can create that much excitement, just imagine what would happen if antivirus programs such as MacScan or Norton for Mac showed up in the Mac App Store.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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