Apple didn’t garner a tremendous amount of press when they first introduced the App Store in OSX Lion. While it was mentioned as one of the new features in the operating system refresh, it wasn’t one of the primary points that pundits pontificated on. The OSX version of iOS‘ App Store was a logical extension of Apple’s offerings; one stop shopping for trustworthy, vetted software with immediate gratification and an effortless method of keeping that software up to date. Now with Mountain Lion the App Store has been brought to the forefront as the only means of distribution, and new safety features built into OSX 10.8 favor software downloaded from the trusted source (even to the point of excluding other sources should the user decide this level of protection).
I’ve checked the App Store first for any needed software due to the software update integration. While I feel savvy enough to know what sources to trust for downloads, I’d happily endorse relying on just it for an Apple neophyte unsure of the lay of the land. It’s that reliance by design that turns many off of Apple’s ecosystem; the walled garden might be safe but for some that safety is stifling.
As with any unmet demand, there is an alternative to the App Store on the horizon. MacRumors reports that my favorite source of games Steam will be expanding their offerings to non-game software September 5th. The free downloadable Steam client already offers Windows, OSX, and even Linux users an iTunes-like experience with immediate access to a large library of games and built-in social networking features.
The article points to guidelines set in place by Apple for apps hosted in the App Store as both creating the need for an alternative digital software marketplace and a new distribution house for software that can’t meet Apple’s stated guidelines. Limitations such as sandboxing requirements place a hurdle that some programs can’t overcome without losing key components of their functionality, and a Steam-hosted OSX app store will likely be much more lenient with their requirements.
I for one welcome the additional marketplace (especially from a retailer I already love)- competition is always a good thing, and this may allow non-App Store compliant software developers a better chance to make their software accessible enough to spur more development.