Markets for software

The iTunes App Store has been a huge success. In 6 months, there are over 10,000 applications and there have been hundreds of millions of downloads. Outside of office suits and perhaps video games, it has opened up software sales like nothing before it. And it does so for the small stuff — priced less than $10. It should hardly be surprising that other smart phone makers such as Blackberry, Google and Palm are scrambling to replicate the experience.

But why has it been so successful? In my mind, the big factor is ‘ease.’ The software development kit and the power of the iPhone makes development very easy with a straightforward path to distribution — one approval, no negotiation, relatively easy awareness. The alternative would posting software to various sites and hoping for the best.

However, it is on the consumer side that the biggest leap has come. It is so easy to buy small bits of software. No credit card details, a trusted source. I don’t think I have purchased so much software in my life. I think I have over 100 applications and I have bought maybe half of them. I bought mobile software before but it was an agonising decision. It was usually expensive and also awkward to install. And who knew what trouble it might bring. iPhone apps aren’t perfect but it is easy to try them first. Even upgrading is a snap. So developers may whine about the App Store approval process but, as a consumer, I’m glad it is there. We can wait a few extra days for the latest software.

That brings me back to a bigger question. Why is all this only available for phones? Even for the iPhone software, it would surely be easy for those apps to work on a Mac desktop (we can play tunes there after all). But even more critically, we can’t I buy software for my computer this way? There are markets and downloads but nothing as aggregated as this. I agonise about little software puchases for all the same reason I used to worry about them for phones. Think also of the protection to developers in terms of DRM management.

So where is the computer App store? It can’t be that far off.

3 thoughts on “Markets for software”

  1. You should check out Steam, by Valve. It was the precursor to Apple App Store. They only sold games tho, and I mainly boycott Steam because as cheap as they are, I still think the prices are ridiculously high.

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  2. Steam was a pioneer, but true to form, Apple streamlined and simplified the process that others invented and made a motza.

    I’m with Mr Gans – never before have I bought so much software. The low cost and ease of use means games and whatnot have become an impulse purchase a lot of the time. That mental shrug, “Why not?”, has meant I have accumulated dozens of apps I rarely if ever use, but thought would be neat to have, or worth the money even if I only used them for a short while or infrequently.

    I wish big pieces of software came in such easily digestible chunks. Imagine Adobe or Microsoft products not costing a day’s or week’s pay for the lot, but rather having all the various functions available as multiple tiny upgrades to a base program. That way I could have what I wanted for less, and the companies would make more per component than the giant bundles of services that are today’s CS4 or Office.

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