When Apple opened the App Store on July 10 2008, it changed the way consumers experienced mobile forever.
This one ecosystem brought together publishers and developers in a quality controlled, standardized marketplace, meaning it was finally possible for the average Joe to compete with pros.
It also didn’t take long for the big players in travel to see the value in engaging their users while on the road.
In short: mobile and travel were a perfect fit.
Now, two years later, Apple is ready to do it again, this time for the desktop. Last week Apple announced it will release the Mac App Store some time in the coming months as part of OS X Lion.
The Mac App Store will borrow the existing model used in the app store and apply it to program downloads (Mac apps).
According to what Apple has released on its developers' page, it will use the same commission structure as it has in place eslewhere, with no cost to developers releasing free apps on the platform.
So, how will the travel industry leverage this new distribution channel?
Firstly, we need to be realistic about the reach of the Mac app store compared to the iPhone app store simply because the Mac App store will appeal to a smaller audience.
In 2009, estimates showed that Apple sold 86% more iPhones and iPods than Mac’s, which is a huge margin.
This, of course, doesn’t take in to account the record sales of the iPhone4 or iPad in 2010.
But don’t give up just yet, there are a few positives.
In the app store, iPhone users could be anyone and everyone - there was no specific “type” that bought in to the iPhone phenomena - it had mass appeal.
Although the Mac’s popularity has come a long way, it still attracts to a certain kind of consumer, meaning the Mac App Store allows publishers to know (target) their audience just a little better.
So what can travel give to its Mac-loving, app-hungry users?
If we learn from the mistakes made by some brands in the iPhone app store, brands will not be able to simply port their user's websites and mobile apps to the desktop verbatim.
Developers will need to do a lot more more with the platform.
Travel inspiration, booking fulfillment, research and social sharing will have to happen within app - the total opposite to a mobile app, where stripped-back simplicity rules.
Where iPhone apps need to be “The right tool, right now” for mobile travellers on the go, Mac apps will have to be the polar opposite: a feature heavy, one-stop-shop desktop experience to satisfy all pre and post booking needs.
We’re a few months away from seeing the Mac App Store in action but it’s still not clear if users are going to see travel apps on the shelves come opening day.