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Apple Inc. is launching an applications store for Mac computers, replicating a model that proved wildly popular on its iPhones.

Apple is hoping to capitalize on Macs' surging sales as it aims to change the way software is sold for its computers - centralizing distribution, simplifying discovery and leaving Apple as a gatekeeper of sorts.

The Mac App Store, similar to the iPhone App Store and linked to iTunes accounts, went live Thursday offering more than 1,000 apps, or programs. The store is launching in 90 countries with paid and free apps in areas such as games, design and education.

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Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, highlighted the ease of use of the store, which he said will be familiar to anyone who has bought iPhone apps.

Apple hopes to lure new software developers to the Mac, Schiller said, and simplify access to programs, which users currently buy in disk format or download from websites.

He said the success of the iPhone app store "absolutely exceeded our expectations," but declined to make any predictions for the Mac store.

Long-time Apple watcher Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies called the Mac app store "an important milestone for the industry that puts a nail in the coffin of shrink wrapped apps and moves them now to direct downloads."

He predicted that Apple's PC rivals will move to adopt a similar model.

APPS, APPS EVERYWHERE

As with the iPhone, Mac app developers set the price for their apps and get 70 per cent of the revenue from sales, with Apple taking the remaining 30 per cent. Purchases are made via users' iTunes accounts.

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Apple will sell its own software in the store, including the iLife and Aperture programs. Companies like Autodesk , which makes complex engineering and design software, will also sell software.

Schiller said Apple will apply technical standards and criteria for approving Mac apps similar to those it uses on the iPhone. For example, the company does not allow pornography.

Apple has less than 5 per cent of the global personal computer market, but it is the No. 3 vendor in the United States and rising fast, growing far faster than the overall market.

It would be a tall order for Mac apps to match the popularity of iPhone apps.

Apple launched the iPhone store in mid-2008 and it proved to be an instant hit, driving sales of the smartphone and helping reshape the way mobile content is delivered.

The iPhone app store offers more than 300,000 programs, and users have so far downloaded more than 7 billion apps. There are also more than 40,000 apps available for the iPad.

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All of Apple's smartphone rivals have since opened their own app marketplaces.

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