The 5 Innovations of the App Store

wp-content-uploads-2011-01-mac_app_store-300x139.jpgApple have now launched the Mac App Store – the translation of the hughely successful App Store designed to deliver apps for the iPhone and the iPad onto a full blown computer running a full blown operating system.

Whilst PC Mag has already produced a hands on walk through that I shan’t be repeating, and Techcrunch gave their treatment here, I’m going to keeping this to the innovations of the App Store and what it means for the future as opposed to today.

Let me say right off of the bat that I think this is industry changing. I wrote about the 5 Innovations of the iPad last year and predicted the arrival of the App Store on the Mac because of the ease and process of the ecosystem. I said that this new iOS ecosystem is “how computing should be” and now it’s come to fruition.

In many ways, this revolution is just a packaging of smaller innovations from Apple as well as others and a general shift towards apps – but – it is Apple who have made that all important first move. So let’s unpack them.

So here they are, tahe 5 Innovations of the App Store:

1. A truly complete ecosystem: the end of you being the family tech support

One of the benefits of Macs over PCs was that Apple could deliver a complete product – that from the hardware through to the software, it was designed and made to work harmoniously and seamlessly. But, when one moved away from iPhoto and Safari and the other preinstalled software, expertise was required that not everyone has. Files had to be downloaded, mounted and installed, accounts had to created and various payment gateways had to be navigated.

The long and short of this meant that those who are not early adopters or at least the daring early majority would not use the software that they had access to. My wife, for instance, despite being pretty savvy with her Mac just won’t go and install Chrome despite Safari’s sloth-like speed. My mother in law as well, who has mastered iPhoto, had no idea how to install a little plugin to make her photo books work better.

And even early adopters like you and I tire with having to search through Google or other sites to find new software, and then go through the rigmarole of creating an account, paying, managing updates on all the various programmes, etc.

But now consider that with the App Store, I have:

  • One place to find apps (and boy, is it a pleasure compared to Google or Apple’s own online listing)
  • One safe place to download apps
  • One account with which to purchase apps
  • One place to update apps
  • One place that combines with my iPhone and my iPad
  • One click technology that does it all (just like Amazon’s one click ordering)

And perhaps just as importantly as all the above – the App Store works in the same seamless, easy and delightful way that the iOS App Store works. Which leads to:

2. An existing ecosystem: you’re already using the App Store

I don’t know how many iPhone and iPad owners there are out there. But however many tens of millions of them that there are, they’ve all been using the App Store since they got their first device.

So perhaps that’s an incredible innovation right there: the app store isn’t really new, at least from the stand point that there’s barrier to entry. It gets all the power and novelty of new without the user support headache.

One can’t underestimate the power of this. For 7 years, since the launch of the iTunes Store, Apple has been training us for their future. So now whatever Apple releases through their ecosystem, we’ll buy it, with the strong selling point that we already know how to use it and like how it works.

3. A mirroring ecosystem: your life beyond than the cloud

Google’s Chrome netbook is one of many moves towards the cloud that sees more and more business being done exclusively online. Yet Apple have maintained a strong application focus, MobileMe being their only online software. Now, Apple and many of the apps that we use on iOS and our Macs, like Evernote or Dropbox, do use the cloud, but there’s something more than the cloud that I think the App Store is leading towards: mirroring.

Consider this rather regular scenario. You’re documents are on Google Docs, and normally you’re fine on the iPad. But for some reason the internet won’t work and bang – you’re fileless. Or how about you saved some pages in Safari for offline browsing, and when you opened them, they refreshed and you lost them. Or let’s say you DO have Google Docs – now you’re restricted because you’ve got to deal with the lame way that it works on the iPad.

The cloud is great but let’s be clear about it: it’s only for storage. What I love about Evernote is that it stores things in the cloud, but I’ve always got offline versions on my Mac and my iPad. And this is what mirroring is about.

Mirroring is having the same workflow and essential setup on your iPad as you do on your Mac.
Take for instance this screen capture of my iPad homescreen and my Mac dock – a lot of crossover here which means that my workflow can be consistent between the two.

When I talk about cloud to my wife she switches off. You know why she loves Evernote? It’s because it’s the same everywhere she uses it. And with the Mac App Store we are now moving to a place where your actual setup is the same no matter which device you are using.

Ecosystem, workflow and applications are the important words here. I am totally convinced that Apps will overtake the browser because they are purpose and custom built to the needs of the app. Take Evernote again as the example: it works so, so much better as a desktop or iPad app than the web version. And this is the case for pretty much every app. With a browser my workflow is very constricted (unless I’m a geek), but with apps I can have a real workflow. Take for instance the Mashable Mac App. My wife would chose this over a browser any day of the week (were she even just a jot interested in social media, that is.)

This is why I actually use my iPad better for organising my life because of the apps I have and the way they all interlink.

4. A win-win-win ecosystem: it benefits the developers, it benefits us, and it benefits Apple

According to Mashable, one million app downloads were made on day one of the Mac App Store. Evernote in particular have more than doubled their daily new users because of the App Store.

Developers win with the App Store. It means they are now in the easiest channel for their apps to be installed by consumers, and the same benefit that the iOS App Store has had for, let’s be honest, booming the app industry into an actual industry, will now extend that same benefit to desktop applications (or more likely, desktop versions of existing iOS apps, because people are becoming more familiar with them than desktop-only applications.)

We, the consumers, win because we get an easy to way to get apps. As in point 1 – I can’t wait to NOT have to offer as much tech support because my mother in law can now download apps herself without my help (well, once I’ve installed the update for her, that is!) I really do see this as a major step forward in making computing simple for all people.

I remember when I first moved to Mac that what marvelled me the most was the ability to just get on with my work and not have to keep maintaining my system. That same ‘I can just get on with it’ benefit is coming to the early and late majority through the App Store because now they can just get on with it.

And of course, Apple win hugely out of this arrangement – all the more reason for them to keep making things simpler and better.

5. An innovative ecosystem: it is new

This might be a bit of a no brainer, but the App Store actually is innovation. It’s taking learnings from other areas that have each been moving the baton forward and now applying them to the Mac platform. And importantly, it’s new. When I see a lot of Mac updates or Windows updates, often they are just ‘enhancements’, but this is truly an innovation. It changes the way people will consume applications.

What will the repercussions of this be? I think apps might become more disposable. At the moment, if I take time to download an app, I’ve probably done research before and then when it comes to downloading, the work that I’ve put in means I’ll give the app a good go.

But with one click downloads and a simple way to find new apps, I think they might become more disposable. Of course the upside is that these apps are more discoverable, but the emphasis now must be for them to really deliver. The apps that will do best here of course have already trained the user in using their app on the iPhone first.

Your Leading Thoughts

  • Pick one of my points and further it – what do you think is further down the line?
  • What innovations have you found that I’m missing?

Archived Comments

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    I got an iPod Touch for Christmas. It’s my first Apple experience since editing the high school newspaper with Aldus Pagemaker on an old Macintosh. I am not a fan. For all the potential of the device, my experience thus far has thoroughly disgusted me and I use it almost exclusively for streaming Pandora in the garage or living room. That’s it.

    Barring an easy how-to on rooting this thing and loading Linux, I think the one innovation that would have me taking the iPod Touch with me everywhere I went would be seamless, high speed wireless internet from coast to coast so I could take Pandora with me without any snags.

    Thing is, the wireless carriers are delivering faster network speeds and greater coverage right now. I can stream Pandora on my Blackberry too. If I can get 21MBps down on the Tmobile network wherever I go, why would I need the iPod? Heck. Why would I need two ISPs?

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