Today is a huge day for Mac users. For the first time ever, Apple is offering a major Macintosh operating system upgrade exclusively over the Internet. The company has also discontinued much of the boxed software it offers in a clear signal that it hopes and expects to see the vast majority of applications for the Mac delivered through the App Store from this day forward. Just as it did with music (and to limited degree with DVDs), Apple wants to eliminate all physical artifacts from its computing experiences other than the hardware it makes.
But there are downsides to this. Immaterial purchases don’t carry all the same property rights that physical ones do. When the iTunes Music Store launched, users quickly learned that it’s a lot harder to return or resell an album bought from Apple than it is to do the same with a CD. With the iOS App Store, we all know that it’s not easy to get your money back if you make a foolish purchase.