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Apple to 'boot boxed software from retail boutiques'

'Boxes? We don't need no steenkin boxes!'

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Now that Apple has opened its online Mac App Store, it is reportedly poised to evict boxed software from its brick-and-mortar retail stores.

"Apple is planning on making the move to all digital sooner than expected at their retail stores," MacRumors reports, citing unnamed sources.

With physical shelf space being at a premium, such a move would make good business sense from Apple's point of view. Those shelves could then be filled with higher-margin shiny-shiny.

And one long-time Mac OS X developer with whom The Reg has spoken is glad to see the arrival of the Mac App Store and the demise of boxed software. "We've shut down retail here in the States," says Ken Case, CEO of The Omni Group.

"That's enough of printing boxes, and shipping them places, and building up inventory, and having to destroy boxes when we've released a new version," he says. "All of those headaches are just gone."

Case also told us that the 30 per cent cut that Apple takes for Mac App Store sales is a bargain. When selling software in retail, he says, "you're lucky if you clear 30 per cent by the time everything is done. So having a channel where you get to keep 70 per cent? That's great."

But the Mac App Store – at least as it is currently constituted – is aimed at consumers, and not businesses or content-creation professionals. Not only are Microsoft Office and Adobe's Creative Suite titles absent from its virtual shelves, but so are such high-end Apple products as Final Cut Studio and Xsan.

Digital distribution of Mac OS X apps may be the unstoppable wave of the future, but don't expect Apple to freeze out all non–Mac App Store sales. If Apple were to try to do so, the resulting hue and cry would almost certainly bring on, at minimum, an antitrust investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission. ®

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