Neither option is feasible in all cases, says Marc Edwards, director and lead designer for Bjango, which sells the popular iStat Menus outside the Mac App Store. "Version 2 often
bears little resemblance to version 1," he notes. "If we wanted a major update to be an in-app purchase, we'd
probably have to include two versions of the app in one. It's all a bit clumsy and doesn't fit with the way we
It comes back to the issue of gatekeepers. If developers want the wide distribution that app stores allow,
they'll need to adapt their business plans to fit the app stores' rules. Edwards describes the app-store model as
"brilliant," and expects future Mac products to be exclusive to Apple's App Store, where appropriate.
Not Another Stand-Alone Revolution
At its debut, the iPhone App Store rocked the tech industry because it made mobile software easier to acquire
and more fun to use. It also took advantage of smartphone hardware--accelerometers, graphics processors, and
cameras--in ways that Web apps could not. And because the App Store was the only way to download new iPhone
software, it had an easier time becoming a phenomenon.
Desktop app stores won't have the same meteoric impact on how we consume software. The Mac App Store has been
popular, but it hasn't fundamentally changed computing on its own, because many of its benefits--such as digital
distribution and full access to device hardware--were already available elsewhere. Desktop app stores will merely
add convenience in the form of centralized billing and distribution.
The next sea change in how we use software will come from online services, which will act as the glue that holds
all of these new apps and platforms together. As Kevin Foreman of Inrix says, "In 2012, it's just me and my
services. If you think about Netflix and Pandora, or even electricity, I don't really care where electricity comes
from, I just want to plug my stuff in the wall and have it work."