Mac App Store got your mind going yet, Apple fans? The new version of OS X - dubbed "Lion" may well include aMac App Store similar to the App Store now available for iPhone users. Apple is aiming to make your Mac work a lot more like your iPhone.CEO Steve Jobs announced Wednesday that the Mac will soon get an Application Store of its own and Apple's FaceTime video calling software first seen on the iPhone. It will also support more of the touch-based gestures consumers use to operate the company's handheld devices.
Some of these features will be incorporated into the next update of the Mac OS X operating system, version 10.7 and dubbed Lion, which Jobs announced will be available next summer. Additionally, the company unveiled a newly redesigned MacBook Air computer that takes some pages from Apple's iPad with its lightweight design, flash-memory based storage, long battery life and
Jobs noted that the iOS software that powers the iPhone and iPad was derived from Mac OS. By taking some of the innovations developed since then for iOS "back to the Mac," Apple is coming full circle, he said.
"We've been inspired by these innovations," he said. "We think bringing these things to the Mac will really delight Mac users."
The changes are important for Apple because there are already far more users of the company's iOS devices than there are Mac users, noted Ezra Gottheil, a senior analyst at Technology Business Research, an industry consulting firm.
"What this does is it makes the Mac a far easier product for people that are not familiar with it," Gottheil said.Of the new featurescoming to the Mac, the most significant could well be the new Mac App Store, which Apple plans to launch within 90 days. As with the one introduced for the iPhone, which also serves the iPad and iPod touch, the store will allow Mac users to buy, download and automatically install software for their computers over the Internet. As is the case with the iPhone App Store, the Mac OS store will also alert users when updates are available for their software and allow them to download updates for multiple programs at once. Apps built for the iPhone store will not work on this new store, however.The App Store for iOS has been a runaway success. It has some 300,000 applications in it -- more than three times the number in the application marketplace that Google put together for its Android operating system -- and consumers have downloaded some 7 billion applications since it launched, Jobs said.The iOS App Store has revolutionized the way consumers get applications on their smartphones. Since its debut, every other major smartphone operating system maker has launched application stores. By offering developers a relatively inexpensive way of getting their applications out to a large audience of users, the App Store has encouraged the development of a wide range of low-cost applications.
Analysts doubted that the Mac App Store would have a similar impact. But at the very least, it shores up a problem faced by Mac users, analysts said. With few software stores around these days and electronics and general retailers devoting little space to PC software, Mac programs can be hard to find outside of Apple's own retail stores."We're not in the days of Egghead anymore," said Ben Bajarin, an analyst with consulting firm Creative Strategies, referring to a defunct PC software retailer. "This is going to streamline the process of discovering and installing OS X software."And some analysts think it could mean a lot more for consumers and the company. That's because it's likely to lead to a whole bunch of new applications for Mac users, analysts said. Developers for iOS devices are likely to rewrite their applications for the Mac to sell in its App Store, they said. And the same type of solo developers and small development teams that have been attracted to iOS are likely to be drawn to making new apps for the Mac as well, they said."This is not about the big guys. Microsoft can find its way to your Mac," said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at NPD, a market research firm. "Instead, it's a way to encourage (the development of) software that might otherwise not be written."
"The App Store is going to be a gold mine for them," added Van Baker, an analyst for technology research firm Gartner.The Mac App Store will have some important differences from the iOS one. It won't carry iOS software, and it won't work on every Mac. Consumers will have to be running the latest version of the Mac OS X software -- 10.6 Snow Leopard -- to access the store.Mac users will still be able to buy packaged software at retail stores and will still be able to download software over the Internet from websites or through services such as Valve's Steam.One of the other significant features coming to Macs is FaceTime, which will allow Mac users to make video calls to their friends' iPhones or iPod touches.Apple introduced FaceTime when it unveiled the iPhone 4 in June. Last month, the company added the feature to its iPod touch.Between the iPhone 4 and the new iPod touch, Apple has shipped about 19 million FaceTime devices, Jobs said. By adding the Mac, the company will greatly expand the potential number of FaceTime users, given that there are now nearly 50 million Mac users, according to Tim Cook, the company's chief operating officer.FaceTime will run separately from iChat, which is Apple's instant messaging software for the Mac, which also has video chat capabilities.The company also announced two versions of the MacBook Air, both available now. Among the new features borrowed from the iPad is a solid-state flash memory drive, not the typical hard-disk drive found on most other notebooks. "It's one of the most amazing things we've ever created," Jobs said. "We think it's the future of notebooks."Jobs also announced Apple's upgraded iLife 11 software, which includes iPhoto, Garage Band, iDVD and iMovie.