Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The App Trend

"The App Trend" as I refer to it, is nothing new. It's not talked about in the news, it's not mentioned on my Twitter feed. So when it came to writing this week's article, I had a choice. Either I could write about the fact that Facebook now lets you log in via HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), or I could find a topic not so commonly discussed, delve deeper into the concept, and bring forward some of my own ideas.

After all, that's what this blog is all about. Raffi's iDeas in not a technology news feed. If you need one there a hundreds of tech bloggers to follow on Twitter. Raffi's iDeas contains articles written only by me, generally on the topic of "Technology Culture". What I mean to say is, I will take simple technology concepts and expand on their meaning. Old techology is just as important as new stuff.

But let me get back to the article. Mobile applications as I'm sure you know, are all the craze at the moment and have been for a couple of years. There are many home-developers and large scale app development companies around the globe, so these stores are constantly updated with new content, ready for immediate download by whoever owns a compatible device. And the bottom line is: 

People download apps like nobody has ever downloaded software before

And this truly confuses me. Why should these app stores have any more success than an online download site such as Download.com, launched in 1996 (fifteen years ago)?

Why are they different? What makes app repositries a much more attractive option?

Single Click
Downloading and installing from an app store is childs play. Whereas downloading and installing on a PC for many people is almost impossible. There are a million and one options and preferences to select. Finding a website to download it from, download, locate .exe file, extract files, select options, and leave to install for a while having given relevant permissions. Now it's installed; leaving your desktop and start menu in a total mess, full of shortcuts and links that are not standerdised in any way. You get the idea. With an app store, the proccess is seemless. You locate the app via the simple search engine. Simply hit install and enter your password. Wait for your app to install and you're away. These apps always work straight out of the box.

Central Repository
I think it all boils down to having everything in one place. The app store will notify you if there are updates available for any of your apps. If you purchase an app and happen to delete it, most stores will allow you to download it again for free as long as you had purchased it before. The iOS App Store even lets you sync your apps with iTunes on the computer. This will enable you to share apps amongst as many devices as you wish, as long as these devices share the same Apple ID.

Apps are Priceless...
...almost priceless at least. There is a large collection of free apps, which are amazing. In addition to those, there are many free "lite versions" of apps that would usually cost. This a very sneaky method of tempting the user to invest in the full version.

And even so, most full versions are never priced much higher than a few pounds/dollars. Angry Birds, for instance is priced at £0.59/$1.00 and contains over two hundred levels. I have had Angry Birds on my iPod Touch for more than two months now, and I am nowhere near the end of the game. This, again, is another sneaky little trick. Most people wouldn't want to spend money on a PC game because they are priced at tens of pounds/dollars. But these micro-payments are a little easier to come by; one would be more inclined to buy something that is so cheap. And when you are paying in these tiny amounts, it's very easy to lose track on the amount that you've spent (that's why I keep a list of each app I have bought and how much it cost me!)

Reliability Is Everthing
Reliability is probably the biggest reason. It's important for the downloader to know that the app is relavant to it's description, virus free and worth downloading. Online sites like Download.com contain content from all corners, so it's impossible to be sure. With the iOS App Store, for instance, the app must be approved by Apple themselves before it is posted to the App Store. It's comforting to know that the app that you have downloaded has been approved by the people it was developed for. That way you can be sure that it is a safe and worthwhile download. The Android Market works in a slightly different way, but I'm not going to go in to that now as I disscussed it last week (see article "The Mobile War: Google vs Apple").

It's no wonder why apps have been so successful. They make a lot of sense. The stores are organised, logical, reliable, and your desired application is one click away. But apps are going further than just mobiles. Very recently, we saw the release of the Mac App Store which is essentialy just a Mac-based version of the iOS app store. It has proved fairly successful, although it doesn't posses the "Almost Priceless" factor like it's iOS brother. But I guess it will be another case of "time will tell".

It's pretty obvious that Microsoft will come forward with their own app store in the next version of Windows, dubbed "Windows 8". This will probably be very close to the iOS store. Microsoft seem to have become followers rather than leaders like they were in the 20th Century. It's amazing how things change.

Raffi Maurer


John Hamilton, UK said...

Another great blog! I never really thought about how easy it is to get sucked in with small payments. It's so easy to do...almost too easy!

Chris Eastwood said...

I can't use a PC but I can sure use my iPhone and install apps so you are right on.

Ezra Butler said...


A correct analysis, in my estimation.

Something else that you may be interested in understanding is exactly what was on Download.com 15 years ago. Where as people today market in relatively inexpensive apps, the terminology back then was "Shareware" based (especially in the PC world). But the extent of virality back then was capped by the 2400 baud modems that we had. So many of these cheap shareware programs/games were actually sold in stores. But the extent of sharing them or suggesting them to your friend was much more difficult.


Zev Jacobson said...

Great Blog Rafi - if only Microsoft would learn from Apple how to design user-friendly software!!!

Rakhi Dave said...

Great article Raffi - Spot on as usual - keep them coming :)
As said above Apple has made software accesible for the layman user

Anonymous said...

Great post...as usual!!

Just something off the subject: What would you recommend: Firefox or Chrome?

Raffi Maurer said...

I recommend Chrome. It is fast, user-friendly and simple. I have actually talked about Chrome here in the past, see article "Google Chrome OS - A year on" Raffi

Mohamed Fayaz Khan said...

Another great post Raffi. A lot of people see the App Store approval process as draconian but I am really glad knowing that the software I am downloading is free from viruses etc. And people wonder why Apple devices are less prone to these attacks. To place an app in perspective, $1 is a cup of coffee for me, and that is only after I have been convinced with the Lite version.

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