What does the App Store know and when did it know it?…

…with apologies to former Senator Howard Baker.

Apple’s newly-opened App Store is as familiar and comfortable as a broken-in pair of shoes because it closely parallels iTunes. But here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

Like iTunes, the App Store is free-standing, not a Website, which means you have to install it on your computer. For my MacBook Pro that meant updating to OS X v10.6.6. Initially, I missed this caveat in the grayish “fine print” under the confetti-like image (below) on the announcement email. As a result, I spent a few frustrating minutes on the Apple Website, before I saw the you-need-to-upgrade, pseudo-redirect message on one screen. The rest was easy.

More importantly, there is the curious matter of how the App Store deals with applications that I have already purchased. I immediately realized this would be an interesting issue when one of my favorite productivity apps, Things from Cultured Code, appeared prominently as part of the horizontal banner between “New and Noteworthy” and “What’s Hot.” Imagine my surprise, then, when I clicked through to the Things page on the App Store and saw, in the small blue clickable-box where the price would normally appear, the word “Installed.” Cool! More to the point, how did it know? And what else did it know?…

Although I haven’t yet attempted an exhaustive search for all the apps on my MB Pro, I can report this from a quick look at the App Store:

  • Among Apple’s own applications, the three components of iWork — Keynote, Numbers, and Pages — all show up as “Installed,” but iPhoto does not.
  • Among other third-party applications, the App Store found Coda, my Web editor-plus from Panic, but curiously it failed to find Transmit, Panic’s free-standing FTP application. I purchased both of these on the Panic Website, nothing to do with iTunes or the online Apple Store (as distinct from the App Store)
  • Three of my other online purchases that are on the App Store but do not show up as installed: OmniFocus for Mac (The Omni Group), Taco HTML Edit (Taco Software), and TextWrangler (Bare Bones Software), the general-purpose text editor on which I am composing this post. Ditto re: downloading these online from the respective vendors. No prior connection to Apple and iTunes, and no parallel or companion iPad apps.
     

    Obviously the difference is not Apple vs. third-party apps. Nor is it a matter of free (TextWrangler) vs. paid (OmniFocus, Taco, Transmit). It is not even a matter of some vendors vs. others — witness the two apps from Panic, one discovered, the other not. So what is it?…

    Why not ask Apple? There is, after all, a “Support” link in the upper right-hand pane of the App Store. Alas, that link — http://www.apple.com/support/mac/app-store/ — leads to a page headed “Hmm, the page you’re looking for can’t be found.” So paradise is not quite as paradisical on opening day as it will probably be in a few weeks or days or even merely hours. To be continued.

    Two more takes on the App Store from lifehacker, the first of which suggests that “Installed” is not necessarily “cool,” as I proclaimed it above:

  • Why the Mac App Store Sucks
  • Why You Might Really Like the Mac App Store in the Long Run
     

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