Amazon Launches Competitor to Apple’s Mac App Store

Amazon has unveiled a Mac-specific application download store that will compete with Apple’s nearly five-month-old Mac App Store.

In this photo, the software section of Amazon's new Mac Download Store (click to enlarge) Unlike Apple's Mac App Store, Amazon's new Mac download e-mart sells Microsoft's Office. Photo: Amazon

Amazon has just opened a shelter for Mac software developers who either can’t or don’t want to sell their apps in Apple’s Mac App Store: the logically named Mac Download Store. Amazon’s offering is a direct competitor to Apple’s store, which was announced along with Mac OS X Lion last October and launched in early January with over a million downloads on its first day alone.

The new Mac Downloads Store is essentially a marketplace for buying and downloading Mac applications. Amazon has long offered software downloads for both Windows and Mac customers, but this was the first time that the company called out its Mac-centric “store.”

The Seattle, Wash. retailer, however, apparently did not want to goad Apple into another legal battle by mimicking its rival’s “App Store” moniker: The two companies are already in court over Amazon’s “Appstore for Android,” which Apple claims violates its trademark.

The biggest difference between the two stores is that Amazon’s store isn’t available as a desktop application. That means you can’t receive easy updates from the Mac Download Store, and because it’s not always present on the desktop, users might forget about visiting Amazon’s store on a regular basis.

Amazon’s store also has a much smaller selection of titles — around 250 or so. Approximately 50 of those titles are games, which are actually part of a subsection of the Mac Download Store. By comparison, Apple’s Mac App Store claims over 400 titles in just the “Business” category alone.

Amazon’s store includes a few titles not on Apple’s roster, the most prominent one being Microsoft’s Office for Mac 2011, which retails for $202.96 for the business version and $115 for the home and student version. Microsoft is currently “looking at” the possibility of Office on the Mac App Store, though we doubt Microsoft is willing to pay Apple 30% of its Office for Mac revenue.

Apple’s Mac App Store does not carry Office. Last year, when Apple first announced it would create a Mac online store to match its iOS-centric App Store, Microsoft said only that it was “working to understand the impact of the new app store,” but would not commit to trying Apple’s distribution channel.

The only Microsoft-made application on the Apple’s Mac App Store is the Windows Phone 7 Connector, a free program that synchronizes media content between a Mac and a smartphone powered by Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

The Mac Download Store is Amazon’s third application store after the Kindle App Store and the Amazon Appstore for Android. The latter has given Amazon some legal headaches; Apple has sued Amazon over its use of the term “Appstore,” claiming that it infringes upon its “App Store” trademark.

Like the Mac App Store, Amazon’s lets buyers re-download purchased digital software an unlimited number of times. But Amazon does not provide an update mechanism for downloaded apps, a feature Apple has touted. Last week, however, a security researcher criticized the Mac App Store for retaining old versions of some programs, notably Opera Software’s Opera browser, when newer editions are available directly from the developer.

Amazon’s app store supports Mac OS X 10.5, aka Leopard and newer; Apple’s works only on Macs running the newer OS X 10.6, better known as Snow Leopard. Amazon launched the Mac store with a $5-off promotion that runs through June 1.[via The Register (UK), The Mac Observer and Computer World]

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