There’s no debate that the iTunes Store has been a tremendous success. It’s rapidly rising through the charts of music retail outlets, recently passing up Amazon.com. Much of the credit can be given to the wide array of offerings available, to be sure, but I believe the critical elements behind why iTunes is winning are its simplicity, its uncomplicated interface, and rapid, accurate downloads. When contrasted with either the brick and mortar experience, or the P2P experience, iTunes wins.
Earlier today, I was thinking of how Apple could take a further leap toward making iTunes more than just media – but instead, something akin to an e-commerce engine. As I already have my credit card detail in iTunes, and Apple has clearly invested in a top-notch content delivery system, why not make an iTunes-like interface for other downloadable data, such as shareware or full-rate software applications?
The Current Model
Today’s software downloading experience, to me, is hit or miss. VersionTracker and MacUpdate do a great job in presenting software titles, version numbers and categories, but the descriptions are typically one liners, consisting of the date it was updated, the size of the file, and the author-submitted description. But if I’m searching for a new shareware game or productivity application, I won’t get an experience of how good it is until I’ve downloaded the file, expanded it, and run it from my computer. And for developers, the sell-through percentages for shareware can’t be all that high.
The Promise of Change
But if software authors were to offer their programs through an application like iTunes, the benefits would be immediate. Instead of customers blindly downloading, you could show 30-second demos, just like Apple does with music videos, TV shows and films today. Instead of one-line descriptions, the developer could describe their offering with full paragraphs, explaining the benefits, and happy users could add reviews. And leveraging the iTunes infrastructure, one-click payments and rapid downloads would be a piece of cake.
In this model, the iTunes Store for Software could soon become the #1 destination for new software downloads and purchases. While it would be some time yet before you could expect to download new Microsoft Office or Adobe applications through this store, it could be the very best venue for the small to mid-size software developer today yearning for exposure. The only question is, does Apple want to further extend their business model?