Amid all of Apple's goodies at its Back to Mac powwow, the most strategic move was to bring apps to the Mac platform. With an App Store to the Mac, the company reinvigorates its so-called halo effect, which dictates that one product may pull along another for Apple.
Let's face it. The iPad and iPhone have overshadowed the Mac. Apple has sold 130 million iOS devices since the iPhone launched in 2007. That sum compares to 37.7 million Macs in the same period.
The move for Apple is to court all of those iOS developers to the Mac (all Apple content, Techmeme). If this gambit works---and there's no reason to believe it won't---Macs will have a very rich developer ecosystem. In addition, the Mac will no longer be an orphan from a platform perspective.
Jason Perlow calls the move Apple's gateway drug to the Mac. Perlow said:
This is a significant event in the evolution of the Macintosh, because it signals the paradigm shift away from ISV’s and developers being able to control their own software distribution. In effect, users of the App Store will no longer need to install and download or retain media for their personal computers, just like it is handled on iOS devices today.
The bad news is developers will lose control over distribution. The good news is that the App Store model is proven. Indeed, the continuity between the iPhone and iPad is likely to bring more customers to the Mac. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a research note that the new version of the Mac OS, Lion will create an interesting halo effect:
We believe the new features of OS X Lion build continuities between iOS and Mac OS, so that potential Mac buyers who enjoy their iPhones or iPads will be familiar with the Mac operating system.
In some respects, Apple's move unifies its platform---or at least builds a solid bridge. An App Store for the Mac will land in 90 days and give us a better feel for the Lion launch next summer. Simply put, Apple is leveraging its developer base for a competitive edge. Apple has 600,000 registered Mac developers. That's a good foundation for Mac apps.
Stifel Nicolaus analyst Doug Reid called the Mac App Store move an "evolutionary step toward Apple platform convergence." While Apple's new MacBook Air lineup will garner the headlines, the much bigger move strategically is the latest version of the halo effect.