As promised, the Mac App Store opened for business today in a move that might be viewed a few months down the road as a software distribution phenomenon akin to the App Store. The storefront application requires Mac OS X Snow Leopard and an iTunes account and is available via a free Mac OS X 10.6.6 software update, Apple noted on its site.

The Mac App Store aims to simplify software distribution in the same way the App Store brought you one-tap access to third-party apps on iDevices:

With the Mac App Store, getting the apps you want on your Mac has never been easier. No more boxes, no more disks, no more time-consuming installation. Click once to download and install any app on your Mac. 

The store carries paid and free apps (but no demo or trial software) in categories like education, games, graphics & design, lifestyle, productivity and utilities. You can browse new and noteworthy apps, find out what’s hot, view staff favorites, search categories and read customer ratings and reviews. If your are unsure which apps to get you can easily find Mac review websites which are most likely powered by Mac web hosting to get the latest information about some of the best apps available.

Although the Mac App Store isn’t the only venue to get apps as developers are free to host and market their work on their websites if they’re unwilling to participate in the store, it’s generally thought to be ushering in a new era of a more affordable desktop software and relaxed usage rights. For example, the apps carried on the store run on all of your personal Macs authorized with the same iTunes account.

With standard software distribution, you license an app for a single machine. In addition, the arrival of iOS developers who have mastered low-price, high-volume sales on the App Store to the perfection is already making traditional Mac developers wary. Some, however, embraced the new realities, like RapidWeaver developer Realmac who discounted its popular web site creation tool on the Mac App Store to $40 for a limited period. The Mac App Store also paves the way for simpler apps that do one thing right as opposed to the do-everything tools spawning multiple areas that are difficult to explain or fit inside a single store category.

The launch lineup includes Apple’s iWork, Pages and Keynote as separate downloads priced at twenty bucks each, the iOS game port Flight Control HD, image editor Pixelmator, screenshot-taking app LittleSnapper, drawing and painting app SketchBook Pro, task manager Things, Apple’s iMovie ’11, iPhoto ’11 and GarageBand ($15 each) Aperture 3 (an $80 value) and more. Big suites like Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite were absent from the store at press time.

The Cupertino firm said users need to provide the same iTunes password used to buy music and apps to see their new apps "fly to the Dock, ready to go." The storefront also takes care of updating the installed apps. 

Apple launched the Mac App Store in 90 countries simultaneously, contrasting the App Store that rolled out globally over the course of several months. Mac developers set the price for their apps, keep 70 percent of the sales revenue, are not charged for free apps and do not have to pay hosting, marketing or credit card fees. Interested developers can sign up here.

Source: Apple