The Mac App Store opened January 6th of this year, already has over 1,000 apps, and Apple recently announced that more than one million apps have been downloaded since its opening. To those not familiar with the Mac app store, Apple describes it as “Just like the App Store for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad” — but for your Apple computer or laptop.

The Mac App Store runs just like any other application on your Apple computer, but when you open it you’re presented with a screen very similar to what you would see on your iPad, or within iTunes on your desktop for iOS4 devices [screen shots included].

The Mac App Store opened with a medical category, but unfortunately this space is filled by only 13 apps — and none of these apps are truly medical apps, instead belonging in the health and fitness category.

The Mac App Store, at least in its current iteration, might not appear to provide any new sort of functionality. After all, you’ve always been able to download applications before to your Mac from a variety of websites, such as CNET and Softpedia.

But after discussing the Mac App Store with current medical app developers I feel the medical community could truly take advantage of this new eco system, just as we have on iOS4 devices, because of a few not so obvious features the Mac App Store provides.

Developer of the popular app Medical Spanish, Ameir Al-Zoubi, states developers are extremely excited about the Mac App Store because it stream lines the app selling system — similar to what the iOS4 App Store brought for developers.

It allows for a very easy payment, downloading, updating, and licensing.  Before the Mac App Store, if you wanted to sell a desktop app for a Mac computer, you had to make an online store that processed payments, generated serial numbers, program serial number recognition, and try to add measures that would prevent hacking.  All of this is now done by the Mac App Store, making the barrier of entry to sell apps significantly lower.

In addition, it brings one central trusted store for Mac apps, and automatically installs on all Mac computers.  The apps are categorized and easily searchable.

What does this mean for the medical community?

Many healthcare professionals have created medical apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad.  One of the key reasons cited in the creation of these apps is the low barrier to entry.  Creating a solid application for the iPhone can cost as little as $7,000, or even less — relatively cheap when you think about how much the application can make in return.  And since Apple takes care of the licensing, processing of payments, and other time consuming non-developmental tasks — you’ve seen a large number of applications being made by small groups or even one or two individuals.

Obviously, the Mac Store does not have the same large community the iOS4 devices have — but they still present a significant market.  In last years holiday quarter alone 4.2 million macs were sold.  With the addition of the MacBook Air line of computers, Mac sales should continue to remain healthy.

Unfortunately, current iOS4 apps cannot easily be ported over to the Mac App Store — for obvious reasons — features such as touch don’t work and the iPhone SDK has a large number of features that are different than the Mac SDK.  However, users can buy apps using the same user ID and password they have established for their mobile devices.

The medical community should look at the Mac App Store and think about the huge possibilities of developing apps that offer functionality for desktops and laptops.  As described with the iOS4 devices, the barriers to entry are now low.

Right off the bat, I’d love to see a dedicated MedScape or Epocrates app on my desktop.  I know I can access their content online, but having their content in dedicated form as an app on my computer would be more useful to me.  I’d love to be able to customize the app, instead of having to login via a web browser everytime and get the same experience.  Many medical professionals use their computers at work for EMR, or at home to finish charting — imagine the medical reference apps that could be useful to them in desktop form.

Although it’s obvious everything is moving mobile now — mobile apps that allow you to continue your experience on your desktop are another category that developers should be cognizant of.

With no legitimate medical apps currently in the Mac App Store — whoever is first to start offering useful Mac apps for medical professionals is sure to make a killing.