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Hands-on with Amazon's Mac software store

Dan Frakes, | May 27, 2011
Amazon’s Mac software store offers some benefits, but falls short of Apple’s Mac App Store

Amazon on Thursday announced its Mac Software Downloads store, the company’s latest attempt at competing directly with Apple’s various online media outlets. Hawking a modest selection of Mac applications, Amazon’s store can’t compete with the stocked virtual shelves of Apple’s Mac App Store, but Amazon's offerings do include several flagship products the company hopes will give its new service an edge.

We took the Mac Software Downloads store for a spin to check out the browsing, purchasing, and installation experiences. We also wanted to see how Amazon’s outlet stacks up against the Mac App Store.


Meager initial offerings, a few flagship titles

Unlike the Mac App Store, which you access using a dedicated OS X application, Amazon’s Mac software store is simply another area of Amazon’s Web site—and a section that, if you don’t come across a direct link, requires a bit of digging to find. (Hint: On Amazon’s home page, in the left-hand directory, mouse over the Digital Games & Software entry, click Software Downloads For PC And Mac, and then on the Software Downloads page, click the Mac Downloads link on the left.)

On this rather nondescript page, you’ll see the usual Amazon layout: a directory of sub-topics on the left, featured titles (with icons and descriptions) down the right-hand side, and a couple horizontal-scrolling groups of titles in the middle—currently one for “Hot New Releases” and the other for software that costs $50 and less. There’s also a separate Mac Game Downloads page, which you can view by clicking the All Games item on the left, and which currently features “Best of” and “$6.99 and Under” game collections. Recognizing the appeal of computer games, Amazon displays separate links to both Mac Downloads and Mac Game Downloads from many places within the Downloads store.

Go to any category page, and you can browse downloadable Mac software by category (Business & Office, Children’s Software, Education & Reference, and so on), average customer review, price, or current discount—the latter few being options I’d like to see Apple offer as options for Mac App Store browsing. However, Amazon’s selection is currently rather limited, as you can choose from among only 217 titles at the time of this writing—and approximately 130 of those appear to be various foreign-language-learning programs. There are also 15 to 20 software-training programs; nine tax-prep apps; nine map sets for various hardware GPS units; a number of versions of Quicken and QuickBooks; and even a few items listed as Windows-only. And the “131” children’s software titles are basically the same 130 foreign-language-learning programs, cross-listed, along with Canvastic. So while Amazon offers more options for browsing than the Mac App Store, at this point in time, you get a fraction of the variety offered by Apple.


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