Syncing: More thoughts on the Mac App Store

I’ve been thinking more and more about the forthcoming Mac App Store, and there are a few things that I am curious about. Despite everything I discussed in the first article, I have come up with a few things that do not add up.


I spent 4 1/2 hours the other day upgrading my Mom’s computer from Windows XP to Windows 7. This requires what effectively becomes a new installation. As most new computer users know, regardless of the platform, a new installation of an Operating System means that you have a list of things to accomplish. Set-up user account(s), re-install applications, copy over all of your data, do updates, set-up preferences the way you would like and then some more minutia with each application.

For apps from the App Store, the question of how we will copy over our data after a re-install is not so easily answered. One of the aspects of the iOS store is that any applications, and in-app purchases, are required to work across all of your iOS devices. But, I know this has not been the case across all applications, because I have an application that does not transfer the in-app purchases should I re-download the application and install it on a freshly wiped iOS device. I would have to go and re-purchase the in-app purchase in order to actually get this functionality back.

So this leads me to wondering something: how does the application’s data get backed up? Right now within the iOS App Store, your data is backed up when you sync your iOS device and this information is then backed up again when you backup your computer (you do backup your computer, right?). But if your application data is just stored locally and you do have to do a re-install of your computer, even though you are able to download the software itself again, your data may not be easily placed in the correct location, even with backups.

Apple is supposed to be opening a new data center this year, and I would love to see that all application data is automatically backed up on a schedule and stays with your iTunes account, so when you do re-download your application, the last copy of your backed up data is also re-downloaded and placed in the proper location.

To take this one step further, it would be great if MobileMe members (which is overpriced, but that’s another story entirely) could view their data within their iDisk, but not use any of their storage space. The user would also be able to download this data at any time.

Which brings me to my next thought. Syncing is going to be key to apps within the Mac App Store. In order to facilitate the ability for a user to download their data upon a complete re-install, it is going to be necessary to include sync within the applications. This would allow a user to quickly upgrade their Mac by re-downloading all of their applications again from the Mac App Store and then launching the program. Upon launch, the initial download would request credentials for accessing their account and then the automatic download would occur, thereby allowing the user to quickly get back to their last synchronized state.

I do not necessarily think that true cloud access will be required for all applications, although it will likely make sense for the majority of applications. However, in terms of data backup, it may need to be included in all applications. This can be done by using any one of numerous cloud-based storage mechanisms, like DropBox or Amazon S3, or even done via custom back-end servers.

Granted, we’re still about 80 days or so away from the opening of the store and we may hear additional details along the way, so some of these may get answered before then. But these are just some additional concerns regarding the Mac App Store.

Photo Credit: Apple

I'm into everything technology related, particularly anything Apple related. I enjoy programming and tend to lean towards server-based technologies over client-based. You can contact me on twitter, via e-mail, or follow me on friendfeed.