With the success of mobile application stores (led by the iPhone's App Store and then copied by virtually every other mobile platform), it makes sense that the next step would be to try to extend that all-in-one browse/download/buy experience on the desktop. The Linux distribution Ubuntu is working on trying to release an App Store-like AppCenter repository for its next desktop release and many Mac users have suggested or opined that an app store for Mac OS X would be beneficial.
Earlier this week, IDFusion Software released Bodega, an independent attempt to bring an App Store-like experience to desktop Mac users. The free program, offers up a list of applications -- both free and paid -- that users can download, review and buy. If you purchase an app, you deal directly with the developer, but your receipt information is stored within Bodega for easy reference.
You can search for applications (more on that later) and get information on the app, read user reviews and see if there are any press reviews (the press clippings apparently come from Bodega's built-in source list so they aren't complete or exhaustive).
I played with Bodega for a bit and tested to see how it works as both a store and an app discovery service.
Look and Feel
Although there are some UI quirks (which is understandable for a first release), the design of the app is slick. The interface very much mimics both iTunes and the Mac OS X Finder. Categories for applications are on a sidebar to the left and the main panel contains lists or specific app information.
I have a few problems with the way apps are categorized and also with application search. Although the categories are actually well structured, applications that fit in multiple categories (or even might exist in one primary category) aren't always where you would expect to find them. Some apps that are even the same type (like a screen shot application) aren't all in the same place. I'm not sure if developers are choosing the categories or if the Bodega folks are, regardless, the categories need to be more consistent.
Although search is good when looking for a specific application name, it doesn't work with anything regarding an applications description. For instance, if I search for "RSS," I get some results, which are valid. But if I search "feed," I get even more results (and several RSS readers that did not show up in the RSS search.)
Search did improve in between the time I first tested some of the features and when I sat down to write this post (a few hours), so perhaps this is going to improve with time.
I wish that you could find apps by tag or by developer to get a more robust sort of listing.
Because Bodega is so new, the number of applications available is limited. Developers can submit their apps for free and it looks like Bodega is even offering an iTunes gift card as an incentive to help fill the store.
Part of my purpose in playing with Bodega was to see if I could use it to discover some new apps. Admittedly, I get a lot more information about upcoming software than the typical Mac user, but it's always nice to be able to find something new.
Incidentally, I was able to discover Chill Pill, which is an enhanced Separate Site Browser for Shaun Inman's excellent feed reader, Fever. Because Fever runs off of your own web server it was designed for the browser, and it looks great. Chill Pill offers up a few configuration features and potential options that make a standard Fluid instance a little bit better. It was a neat find, and it's free. Yay.
Having said that, at the present time, the selection that Bodega offers up isn't wide enough to necessarily offer lots of incentives over just perusing the latest releases from VersionTracker or MacUpdate.
Bodega has a built-in updater that checks to see if apps you have on your system (that are also in the Bodega repository) have any available updates. Like App Fresh, it suffers from some quirks (reporting that apps that aren't out of date are, or not recognizing if a newer version is available), but the system looks pretty nice.
Overall I think Bodega is a solid effort and the idea shows promise. Whether or not this idea will succeed will ultimately depend on how many developers decide to submit their applications. Better search and categorizing coupled with a wider selection of titles could make Bodega a great way to quickly find and learn more about new OS X apps.
Bodega requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and up.