Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) plan to launch an applications marketplace for Mac and MacBook owners is starting to crystallize. Come Jan. 6, Apple will officially roll out the Mac App Store.

There's no denying that Apple's original App Store is a smash hit. The fledgling iOS platform that powers iPhones, iPod touch media players, and now iPads created cottage industries for talented indie developers, and a new way for established companies to reach users on the move. Can the same iOS magic port over to Mac OS X?

The Mac App Store won't be an overnight success. Unlike an iPad, which is pretty bare-boned before one begins to download applications, Mac owners are already running familiar software programs. They know how to peck away on their keyboards for solutions, without having to poke at touchscreens. The attraction of a Netflix streaming app -- the most popular third-party app when the iPad was introduced earlier this year -- isn't as powerful when itself is a click or two away on a computer.

However, the novelty of free -- or nearly free -- games, utilities, and productivity programs should be appealing at least on a rudimentary level at first. And that's when the ball will start rolling.

For starters, what do you think will happen to the value proposition of Macs in general once developers begin cranking out cheap yet quality apps? Paying a premium for a Mac over PCs running Microsoft's Windows 7 will become an easier justification for the masses.

The developers will come. Apple's offering a free-hosted platform where the software makers get a check for 70% of the sales revenue. There's nothing like a cottage industry with free rent and a great view.   

The revolution won't end there, of course. More than a few tech giants have to be worried. If you're Google, do you think you'll get more or fewer search queries from someone who's absorbed in apps? I can go for days without relying on Google -- outside of Gmail -- on my smartphone. The same can't be said for my PC experience. Apps become the new gateways and traffic cops of cyberspace, which has to worry the search engines.

What about Adobe and its software peers? If some talented developer is offering free video-editing software or a publishing platform for $9.99, do I really need to shell out tens if not hundreds of dollars for major software programs?

So let me add this all up. If the Mac App Store is a hit, Macs will gain market share at the expense of Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and everybody else. Web portals may lose traffic to self-contained apps. Software prices -- including Apple's own wares -- may head lower to compete in the leveling playing field.

If the reality is anything remotely close to this scenario, Apple will definitely be changing the world again in 2011.

Is Rick wrong? What are you expecting from the Mac App Store in three weeks? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.