Sunday, June 12, 2011

Apple's "Mac App Store" versus Amazon's "Mac Software Downloads" Store

In my opinion, one of the reasons why Apple has been so successful in selling product is because user experience is paramount. There is a relentless focus on ensuring that software is designed to be as easy to use and intuitive as is possible. They always think about what is easiest for customers rather than what is easiest for them. Ultimately, they want it to be a conscious decision for customers to purchase their products and services.

Watch any Apple Keynote and you will hear references to how things "just work" on a Mac. This illustrates their believe that user experience is paramount and one of the best ways to ensure users have a good experience is to ensure that software and hardware just work together. They are best positioned to ensure things "just work" because they design all their hardware and write all their operating system software. For those things they do not do themselves (i.e., manufacturing), they hold their partners to very high standards which ensure that the end product "just works".

The Mac App store is a shining example of where Apple just leaves the competition in the dust. When I buy software, I tend to prefer to purchase software I can download. In part because I like the immediate gratification, but also because physical media typically gathers dust in my attic once the software it contains is installed. The download experience for stores other than the "Mac App Store" is generally the same:
  1. Browse the on-line store.
  2. Purchase the software.
  3. Download the software.
  4. Install the software.
  5. Enter my license key.
  6. Run the software.

With the Mac App Store, Apple has applied what they've learned from the iOS App Store and applied it to the Macintosh platform. The purchase experience for the Mac App Store is:

  1. Browse the on-line store.
  2. Purchase the software.
  3. Run the software once it is installed.
You never run an installer. You never apply license keys. You buy it and within minutes (depending on the speed of your Internet connection), you are using it.

And the best part of the Mac App Store, in my opinion, is that you buy the software once and install it on ALL the Macs that you own.

Apple did not invent the downloadable software category for the personal computer. However, they have made it the most user-friendly experience for finding, buying and installing software around.

Amazon's initial "answer" to the Mac App store is a step in the right direction; however, it is nowhere near as easy to use. Have a look at the Macworld article "Hands-on with Amazon's Mac Software Store". Amazon's freshman effort at a Mac App Store clone is a step in the right direction, but they have a lot of ground to make up.