I just downloaded the latest update to Apple’s computer operating system, Mac OSX, which brings with it an app store, like the sort on your mobile phone, or iPad.
It means that I can browse for, pay for (if necessary) and download software for my computer without having to search the web for it, then do another search for reviews to make sure it’s any good, etc.
There are clear advantages for the consumer – but also for the smaller developers of apps who can now get a shop window on people’s desktops.
As Adrian Short noted on Twitter, there are cost savings to using the app store as compared to, say, buying software on Amazon:
I note that the next version of Windows, 8, will also feature an app store.
This is addition to the web browser based app store that Google have released for Chrome, which I blogged about last year.
App stores aren’t new, and originated on the desktop with the software repositories on Linux systems. But it certainly seems to be a concept that is now reaching the mainstream.
There are different models for app stores, with a principle difference being how open they are. Apple, for example, curate theirs with a iron fist, only allowing apps through which meet their stringent criteria for quality and usability.
The Android store, on the other hand, is an apparently lawless place, with many apps of dubious provenance and quality.
A further interesting development is the Amazon app store for Android – a third party creating its own app store for someone else’s platform!
It will be interesting to see what wins – sheer number of available apps, or better curation through central control? I suspect the latter as user experience ought to be key.
What about public services?
Should there be an app store for government? There are two potential scenarios here.
Firstly an app store for public sector workers to use to get applications onto their work computers (or perhaps just their web browsers in the Chrome model). A trusted source of apps to give people greater flexibility in terms of what they can use on their computers.
The advantages of this are considerable. No more pleading of the IT department to let you install Tweetdeck. No more finding that Evernote is blocked. Not sure how likely it is, though.
The second model would be to provide a store for apps for non government people to use to interact with public services.
There would be a number of things that needed to be worked out here, including ensuring apps were available on a range of platforms and devices.
Also, who would run it? I recall David Wilcox’s ideas for a social app store as being a centrally-located but not controlled place where civically minded digital bits and bobs could be used by others to make their place a bit better.
I still like this idea a lot – decentralised, government able to take part and contribute but not own, useful and hopefully not requiring vast amounts of money to build and run.
I’d certainly be interested in others’ views on where an app store might fit into public services, what it would look like and how it could work.
Update: Just come across this interesting post from Stephen O’Grady which is well worth a read: Who’s Going to Build the App Store for the Enterprise?
Update 2: How could I forget? The Knowledge Hub will have an app store in it.
I’m not sure about how an app store for public sector could work, if at all (allowing public sector officers to CHOOSE what software they use?! Ooo, controversial!) but I have to say I’m impressed at Apple’s App store model. The fact that they’ve maintained a consistent and usable model across their various i platforms which still feels very familiar to old school iTunes users is a credit to their design skills. Using the App store in the iPhone/iPad simply shames the offering from Android and I have to say I hope to see Amazon taking some influence from Steve Jobs boys.
Also, as Adrian points out, the pricing is spot on for what I would expect from digital distribution. As a gamer it always disappoints me that the games industry still feel they can get away with charging nearly the price of a boxed copy for digitally distributed titles when, as Apple are showing, the reduced overheads should give the consumer a significant cost reduction.
A public servant’s app store would certainly be disruptive for IT departments.
“The advantages of this are considerable. No more pleading of the IT department to let you install Tweetdeck. No more finding that Evernote is blocked. Not sure how likely it is, though.”
Chances are neither Tweetdeck nor Evernote will be available through a centrally controlled app store as they wouldn’t pass the vetting.
I really like the idea but there are some considerable back-end and middleware infrastructure challenges. I see a future where apps will run on your TV, mobile device de jour, in your car, on planes…in fact, anywhere that electrical appliances run now.
To call this disruptive for the ICT department is an understatement. It might mean the end of the IT department completely. That’s probably a good thing. We don’t have electricity departments anymore