The Chrome Web Store
In 2003, when Apple's iTunes store first went live, there was excitement for a new legal model to purchase our music, but for the most part, as the catalog was extremely thin, my credit card sat idle. While it may have been due to my odd musical preferences, rarely satiated through the radio dial, except for on dedicated shows for Saturday night insomniacs, there just weren't many albums I actually wanted to buy. Practically all my favorite bands were missing. But I believed in the model, and knew that eventually, the contracts would be signed that filled in the gaps. Sure enough, iTunes became a force to be reckoned with and I am almost as assured to find the best stuff in iTunes as I am on Amazon or anywhere else.
We are in a very similar situation now with two of the most recently launched application stores - the Mac App store, focused on desktop software for Mac OS X, and the Chrome Web store for Google's Web browser and parallel OS. Both stores have lofty goals, helping promote their owner's agenda, and both have few recognizable titles. And in both cases, I think consumers are going to largely be sitting on the sidelines as they wait for developers and the business development teams to work their magic.
Top Mac Apps. Think Steve Jobs Likes Solitaire?
With the launch of the Mac App Store, it seemed 90+% of the coverage surrounded two applications - Twitter and Angry Birds. Not coincidentally, those were the two apps I've downloaded so far.
I've peeked at the updated iLife '11 apps, and easily convinced myself the latest feature bumps to iPhoto and iMovie are not worth $30 for me. Similarly, Keynote and Numbers aren't going to set me back $20 each. In fact, despite my understanding that these are replacing retail software titles, after years of staring at the Android Market and iTunes App Store, there's something very much like sticker shock when scrolling through the offerings and seeing prices in the tens of dollars, $30+ and beyond. Aperture is $79, as is Apple Remote Desktop. Kid Pix is $50. and Transmit FTP is more than $30. These are hardly impulse buys.
Google's Chrome Web Store isn't scary in terms of dollars. One can do well using the free apps and extensions that target the browser/OS, so long as one isn't expecting top brands to be represented. The Web Store looks a lot like iTunes, but the big guys aren't there. New York Times and TweetDeck are practically exceptions, as it seems developers are taking a slow approach to the store, waiting for users to demand dedicated apps. Sales for top applications number in the low thousands, including staff picks, which have pushed user downloads to about 4,000 a week, in some cases.
The Great Chrome Version of the New York Times
The tempting thing is to say that these two approaches are not the home runs their corporate overlords had expected. But it's smarter to wait and see what happens as the developers follow the users. It's hard to go first, and users who are early adopters of both sites should be patient. If iTunes is any guide, the stores will both fill out and in due time, all the best stuff will be discoverable. Even the Android Market, once barren, doesn't need to highlight its total app count any more. Enough is enough.
I've been waiting for a Mac App Store for years, and found the promise of the Chrome Web store to be among the most exciting opportunities launched in 2010. Both are the right direction for their respective companies - with Apple trying to leverage its iTunes expertise on the robust Mac platform, and Google trying to keep folks in the cloud and in their browser. If it's hard to find great apps on either site, it's worth being patient. They've got to be coming, and users are going to reap the benefits.