There Is an app for anything
Jamshed Avari | 25 October 2010
There's an app for anything
It’s suddenly all about apps. Everyone wants them and everyone wants to sell them. Even though most apps are low priced, sheer volumes result in lakhs of rupees being spent around the world each month. Apart from Apple, RIM, Nokia and Google, Intel’s trying to get netbook makers to co-brand its AppUp platform on every unit they ship. Mozilla's launching its own version for open-source software. Amazon’s getting into the game on mobile devices. And Apple has just announced an App Store for desktops and laptops running Mac OS, and many rumors say Windows 8 will have one as well. Developers who’ve never been able to reach some audiences suddenly find themselves spoilt for choice regarding which platforms to support and distribute through. And consumers are happy with the wealth of applications available at their fingertips. With the right kind of broadband, we might never need to search for a place to buy software on CDs or DVDs again.
Common repositories for desktop software have existed for ages, but phone makers first started thinking of third-party software the same way as it’s done on the desktop—customers need to find someone who’s selling what they want, and then download and install it manually. In India at least, piracy of Symbian apps for Nokia phones was rampant and unchecked—now people don’t mind paying Rs 50 or 100 for a fun game since it’s so convenient.
Apple kickstarted the mainstream app distribution concept, without necessarily knowing how wildly successful it would be. Third-party iPhone apps weren’t originally meant to be distributed like this at all; the notoriously controlling company had originally decided that browser-based web apps were the way to go. The official store might never have come about had hackers not first launched their own graphical app repository and installer just because it was possible.
Each successful app ecosystem has worked because of its simplicity and the quality of software available. The iPhone store and its many clones work because apps on mobile devices can be really cool, and also because they’re right there! The stores offer a massive amount of choice, a simple payment method, and a sense of quality and security. On the commerce side of things, advertising, periodic updates, instant distribution, in-app micropayments and paid social features keep the money rolling in.
Apple at least controls its devices’ hardware, software and service delivery channels, but Android users, for example, are now at the risk of being confused by OS’s own Android Marketplace, the handset manufacturer’s store, and multiple other third-party vendors who want to get in on the action. It’s crucial that things remain uncomplicated, or excessive fragmentation will lead to users not finding anything they want, undoing all the good momentum that this new channel has built up.