July 12, 2012, 11:34 AM — When Apple launched the iPhone App Store in 2008, few people recognized how revolutionary it was. Four years
later, everyone can see that the App Store has uprooted the software industry, creating an app craze that has
spread far beyond smartphones.
Now, the app-store model is taking over desktop PCs. Apple launched its Mac App
Store in January 2011, and has already seen more than 100 million
downloads in that marketplace. With the debut of Windows 8 later this year, Microsoft will launch the Windows
Store, the company's first centralized location for desktop and tablet apps.
To find out how app stores are changing desktop software, PCWorld spoke to software makers and research
analytics firms. Not surprisingly, many developers are enthusiastic about the easy distribution and streamlined
billing that app stores provide, yet these stores also introduce challenges--some that are unique to desktops, and
others that have plagued smartphones since the dawn of the iPhone App Store.
Desktop Apps vs. Mobile Apps: Same Model, Different Tastes
Although smartphone app stores have given rise to small-footprint, single-use programs, developers aren't ready
to write off desktop apps. The developers I spoke with believe that full-featured software is far from dead, and
that it will continue to have its place in desktop app stores.
Bill Taylor, a product manager for voice-recognition software firm Nuance
Communications, believes that the small scale and limited functions of smartphone apps are a byproduct of
technical limitations, such as weak processors and low storage capacities on early handsets. More-capable devices,
with more-powerful microprocessors and memory, he says, will lead to more-capable apps.
"I think it's going to make sense from a user standpoint to have a more seamless experience," Taylor says. Going
in and out of five apps on your smartphone or tablet to accomplish one task, such as editing an image or updating a
spreadsheet, just doesn't appear to be all that great of an experience, Taylor says.