Microsoft and Apple are engaged in a fight over a seemingly ludicrous issue, the name App Store. It seems superfluous. EVERYONE is doing an App Store. Intel launched a site called Intel AppUp which has software for purchase for Netbook and Atom-based systems, Google has its Market for Android, Verizon has its Marketplace. Even we, at Motion, have launched a software store for the purchase and downloading of applications appropriate to our customers. This actually is the start of another major shift in the computing ecosystem. The transition of packaged apps from brick and mortar stores to apps and applets available for immediate download and use. A new measuring stick of a platform’s success seems to be around how many apps are available and how easy it is to get them and use them.
Apple has been fighting the app battle with Google by pointing out, initially, how many apps they have for their platforms. Now that Android marketplace is catching up (and maybe passing?) with Apple the new argument is the compatibility issues between apps on different Android platforms. Watch for discussions about app incompatibility on Android. It’s the new rallying cry in favor of a closed system (iOS) and highly PRIVATELY regulated market – Apple’s App Store.
The App Stores have only recently become practical because of two major reasons; 1) the bandwidth of wide-area networking – both wired and wireless, is now sufficient to support the downloading of rich and small apps, and 2) the customer’s desire for location independent acquisition/delivery of applications. If a customer had to go to an Apple store to buy Pandora, for example, not a lot of users would have Pandora. Similarly, if a user had to go to Verizon to download a new mail client, there would be little uptake of mail clients. With the bandwidth available and the huge market size of mobile devices, location independent app delivery is now a critical component for any platform vendor.
Every piece of the mobile technology value chain is impacted by the success (or failure) of the transition to downloadable applications. Wireless providers attract more users if they have devices with desirable applications, device vendors sell more units if they have desirable applications, component vendors sell more components if the devices that they provide parts for are on the winning side of the device demand curve, etc. Apps are a critical piece of the user demand puzzle.
Which begs the ultimate question – what happens to applications like Microsoft Office that are too massive for location independent delivery?