When the Mac App Store opens for consumer business early next year, I expect it will, eventually, be a wild success. … As of this moment, Apple has put Microsoft on notice: The traditional way of managing the desktop and applications is dead.

And the App Store model emerges from the iPhone/iPad to the laptop/desktop. We all knew this was coming.

I’m not sure how I feel about this development. Frankly, I use very few “apps” these days anyway, other than the trusty web browser. I still use Microsoft Office for some document processing, but I’m increasingly replacing it with Google Docs. I still use Pidgin, and, well, iTunes. At work I use Outlook for email, but I hate it with a passion. I run an anti-virus program. And that’s it for my 3rd party software consumption. The web is still alive and kicking on desktops, at least.

Also, everyday users have had numerous headaches, for years, dealing with independent software - it leaves things running and eating memory, installs and removals are a pain, etc. An App Store model simplifies that and eases the process of trying out innovative new software (even developed by an individual, rather than a big company) for a broader range of people.

But at the same time, Apple doesn’t exactly have a rosy history of open-mindedness in its App Store policies. When users are *forced* to go through Apple to get software, censorship and severe limits to innovation are inevitable. Next thing you know, your broadband company might strike a deal to keep Skype and Vonage not just off your mobile phone, but off your desktop as well. Worse, Microsoft and other companies making a living off of software sure as heck aren’t going to pay Apple’s cut of the fees (nor should they be forced to).

Ultimately, the solution is openness - app stores are great, provided they aren’t the only option. The device must permit independent software installs, independent tinkering, and the independent and open World Wide Web. We’re losing our phones on this front, and tablets aren’t far behind - let’s make sure we don’t lose laptops and netbooks too.