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Mac App Store is open for business

The Mac App Store has opened its doors to UK punters a few hours earlier than expected, with a selection of more than 1,000 free and paid-for OSX applications.

Having spent the last 30 minutes trawling through the launch products using the Mac App Store App we have to say that what's on offer is a very mixed bag. We can't help thinking Apple fans would have been better served if the Cupertino Company had kept the selection of launch Apps a bit tighter.

Once you have found something you actually want - and we suspect that most people, like us, will exhaust the possibilities of the free titles before digging into the old iTunes Account - everything is as elegant and simple as you would expect from Apple.

The title icon swoops down from the Mac App Store window into your dock and shows a progress bar as it downloads, and after a few short minutes becomes a permanent resident there until you tell it otherwise. Which is a bit of a different story from the Microsoft Silverlight download we were just forced to install, which nagged and bounced and interfered and made us click about seven different buttons even though we'd already made it clear we wanted to install it. Are you listening Mr Ballmer?

To join the party you'll first need to update your system to OSX 10.6.6 which wasn't made too clear on our first foray into the online shop. Being constantly bounced onto the iTunes update page before we'd noticed that the OSX upgrade was a requirement didn't help any either.

For the first time ever, each component of the iLife suite of applications (GarageBand, iPhoto, iMovie) is available individually for £8.99, and each of the iWorks Apps (Pages, Keynotes and Numbers) weighs in at £11.99.

Sorting through the rest of the 1,000 plus third-party Apps which range in price from nowt for the usual crop of crappy games and cut-down demos, up to £130 for Alpha, which stitches lots of little photos together to make one big one, will take a month of Sundays and goes well beyond the scope of this article. Let's just say that a lot of what's on offer feels very much like ported iPad or iPhone fodder and certainly won't tax the Mac Pro sitting on your desk to much.

We also get the distinct impression that some third-party developers might be being just a tiny bit optimistic with their pricing - £12 for Bejeweled 3 seems just a tad steep in our book.

Needless to say, however, everything is well organised with Apple recommendations, categorisations and free and paid-for charts easing the selection process at least a little.

We reckon it's fair to say that anyone who went a bit bananas and emptied their bank account when the iTunes App store for the iPhone and its ilk opened up will be in for much of the same.

As for us, the full-size version of Angry Birds at a cut price £2.99 should keep us busy for a day or two.

It's hard to tell at this point whether the Mac App Store will make a massive impact on the way software is distributed because of its relatively small user base, but if the success of iTunes or the iOS4 App Store are anything to go by, you can expect to see a rash of imitators jumping on the App Store bandwagon in the coming months and years.