Once upon a time, Mac and PC users bought programs pretty much the same way. The old fashioned way. Mac programs were sold on floppy disks, packaged in colorful cardboard boxes, and distributed to stores that sold Macs or PCs.
Or, we purchased Mac programs from a mail-order distributor by using the telephone. That method was so last century. Today, programs are called apps. And Apple is responsible for making application purchases as easy as a click.
From Programs To Apps
I’m not sure when the floppy disk died, but it wasn’t long after Apple launched the iMac in 1998. Just to be sure, I checked our home office and couldn’t find one floppy disk for Mac or PC.
While we once went to a software store or browsed through a catalog to find Mac programs, that began to change as the internet spread worldwide.
Floppy disks became CDs which then became DVDs. We once stood in line at the local Apple Store to get the latest version of OS X for the Mac in a nicely packaged DVD.
The transition to mostly online purchases took us a few years into the 21st century. Besides earlier versions of OS X, I don’t remember the last app I bought on CD or DVD, but it was probably something from Adobe or Microsoft.
All that changed when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. At first, Apple insisted that web-based apps would work fine on the iPhone. But Steve Jobs saw the light, Apple built a software development kit for the iPhone, and launched the App Store.
Apple’s App Store for iPhone wasn’t the first online store, but it was the first to make apps easily available, easily purchased, and very easily installed.
As iPhones began to sell in the tens of millions, app developers got on board Apple’s digital gravy train and the rest is history. Apple sells and distributes more applications for iPhone and iPad than all other devices combined.
What about the Mac? Almost two years ago Apple launched the long expected Mac App Store. It looks and functions similar to the iPhone App Store which is built-in to iTunes on the Mac and PC.
The Mac App Store offers one-click purchase and installation, just like iPhone and iPad apps. There are differences. The only official way to put an app on your iPhone or iPad is through Apple’s App Store.
Not so with the Mac. The Mac App Store also places restrictions on app developers (which is why some Mac apps will never be sold on the Mac App Store), including sandboxing, which enhances security, but may also reduce functionality in some apps.
One could argue that an online app store is nothing more than a natural progression to how computer users should browse, trial, and purchase apps in digital world. Regardless, it was Apple’s App Store (and tens of millions of iPhone customers) which ignited app development and changed how we view apps.
Apple recently admitted that the average iPhone user has over 100 apps. What has happened in recent years is to be expected. My Mac is cluttered with more apps than ever before, and a smaller percentage of critical applications come from Apple, Microsoft, or Adobe.
Increasingly, the applications I use most come from the Mac App Store, rather than purchased directly from developers. And, I tend to look for applications which also have an iPhone or iPad counterpart, and I respect app developers who provide a free version, or a trial version (if the price is above a few dollars).
Physical media is dead. Digital media thrives. In one generation we’ve gone from buying apps on floppy disks, to CDs, to online downloads, to one-click purchase and installation.