How the Mac App Store Works

Mac App Store Guidelines

An Artist Profile page in the iTunes Store, one of the predecessors of the Mac App Store.
An Artist Profile page in the iTunes Store, one of the predecessors of the Mac App Store.
Image courtesy of Apple, Inc.

Apple's hardware and software is part of a closed system that makes it difficult -- and sometimes impossible -- to migrate Mac-native components and programs to PCs. However, this closed system means that Apple hardware and software are built to work together across Apple's product lines. The Mac App Store offers a chance for third-party developers to create and sell apps to all Mac users.

Developers can register for free with Apple to download a developer kit, peruse guidelines, read articles and connect with other developers. When an app is complete, it can be submitted for approval along with an icon and keyword description [source: Lewis].

Third party developers pay an annual $99 subscription fee to Apple, but being part of an audience-rich marketplace means they can avoid spending money on marketing and hosting. Developers set their own prices for apps and don't need to pay credit card fees for purchases because Apple processes the cards and pays the 2-percent to 4-percent fee. Of the retail price, Apple keeps 30 percent and the developer receives 70 percent [source: Evans].

The purchase process is a relatively simple one on the users' end. Launch the Mac App Store, select an app and click the price icon (it will either say "free" or show the purchase price). Then you will be prompted again with an icon that says "buy app," followed by a dialog box that requires your Apple ID and password to complete your purchase. You can pay using a credit or debit card, an iTunes card or a Paypal account. The app will begin downloading immediately and will be installed in your computer's Applications folder [source: Macworld].

If you'd like to know more about an app before you buy it, you can scroll through multiple screen shots. However, trial or demonstration versions aren't available, so you may have to rely on the app's user reviews to find out how the app performs. Or you can conduct research on other sites to find more objective opinions. The Apple Mac Store doesn't vet its reviews, so the opinions offer varying levels of helpfulness.

The Mac App Store offers genre categories, as well a "new and noteworthy" section that features 12 apps on the Mac App Store's launch page and a total of 40 apps under the category's own tab. These apps are chosen by Apple; there aren't any published guidelines for selection, although developers speculate it has to do with having an appealing icon and price point [source: Touch Arcade].

While the Mac App Store continues to grow, both in number of apps and users, it seems Apple is turning its attention to some of its other devices. A major iPhone hardware and software revamp is in the works, scheduled for a 2012 release [source: Luk]. It's expected to include a new way to charge the phone. If it does switch to a cable-free charging method, that may in turn influence a few positive changes in future Mac computers, just as the iPhone's App Store influenced the Mac App Store.

Related Articles


  • "The Mac App Store." January 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011)
  • Evans, Jonny. "Collected: What We Know about the Mac App Store." Jan. 6, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011)
  • Gordon, Whitson. "Why the Mac App Store Sucks." Jan. 6, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011)
  • Lewis, Jim. "How to Become a Mac App Store Developer." Jan. 5, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011)
  • Luoma, T.J. "Finder Now Offers to Search App Store for Unknown File Types." Jan. 7, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011)
  • "The Mac App Store: What You Need to Know." Jan. 6, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011)
  • O'Dell, Jolie. "Windows Gets an App Store of its Own: Avenue." June 28, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011)
  • Porten, Jeff. "WWDC: Apple Touts App Store Successes." Mac World. June 6, 2011. (Aug. 14, 2011)
  • "How to Get on 'New and Noteworthy'" May 27, 2009. (Aug. 14, 2011)