Software Update Versus the Mac App Store

When Lion came out the big deal was that it was available first (and honestly mostly) through the Mac App Store, only later gaining a USB stick option for an additional cost. Yesterday brought us the first update to the new OS and it came in via Software Update.

That may seem all well and good, but how do you update all the other apps that you buy in the Mac App Store? Via the Mac App Store, not Software Update (though I do believe Pro apps are not updated that way).

I mentioned this on Twitter last night and I was surprised that most people think the Mac App Store is a poor update method — mostly it seems because the Mac App Store won’t prompt you for new updates.

The Problem with the Mac App Store and Lion

There are two major issues that I have with Lion in the Mac App Store right now:

  1. They call Lion an app. More specifically they call what you buy from the Mac App Store an app, which what you buy is actually just the installer for Lion — but that’s not really the point since Apple doesn’t specify this.
  2. All apps that you buy through the Mac App Store must be updated through the store. Except, you know, for those super special apps like Lion, Final Cut X Pro, and so on.

I don’t care to argue about the first one — it is what it is and most people will be better off buying Lion through the Mac App Store than they were getting physical media. If it bugs you too much then just think that you are buying the installer app and move on.

The second item is what really confuses me. I don’t care one way or the other how I update my apps, just so long as it works, but the Mac App Store was supposed to make things easier — and buying Lion in the store only to have to update it outside of the store makes it more confusing.

The problem is this: there is a new update for Mac OS X, it’s called Lion, I tell my Mom to go get that update from the Mac App Store and follow the instructions to install it. Now I tell my mom there is another new update for Lion and that she should install it as soon as she can. Where is she likely to go?

My guess: the same place she went to get it to start with. This means I get a call: “Ben, there is no updates.” (Truth be told my Mom is not a Mac user despite my best attempts.)

This is confusing. Yes, Lion will prompt users for the new updates and the Mac App Store won’t — this only matters to power users. Normal users will put those dialogs off as long as possible because:

  1. They have been screwed by those dialogs before.
  2. They don’t want to restart their computer.
  3. They don’t have time.
  4. What they are doing right now is more important that whatever that dialog says.

There are more reasons, but you get the point.

I fully understand the logic: keeping the status quo. I think we are seeing yet another seam in Lion’s transitional fur.

I am not sure that updating Lion through the Mac App Store is the right way to go about it, but it would seem to me that Apple should at least show you that there is an update for Lion in the Mac App Store. This way it could kick the user over to Software Update, thus solving all of this.

Originally posted for members on: August 17, 2011
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