Published on Thursday, May 12, 2011

Android and GetJar admit that app stores aren't working

Mark Bridge writes:

The Apple App Store runs in a similar way to many high-street shops. It decides what it’ll sell. It decides what it won’t sell. It has special offers. It has free gifts. It promotes certain products above others.

Most other app stores (or ‘application stores’, as I’m sure Apple would prefer) aren’t much like retail stores. Instead they’re somewhere between a cooperative marketplace and a headless automaton. But they’re starting to change.

This week Google has announced it offers over 200,000 apps... and it’s introducing a handful of new new features for the Android Market “focused on helping you find apps you’ll love”. There are now staff recommendations and favoured developers to help customers make their choices.

Then we have GetJar, which has just acquired a company with technology that’ll help customers find the apps they need. Usability and discovery are high on the agenda.

Okay, I may have overdone the hyperbole in the headline - but I’d like to think the point is pretty clear. App stores - as they were originally set up - don’t work. They’re going the same way as mobile operator web portals.

Once, when they were new, they did okay. But now the novelty of buying any old virtual tat has worn off and the app shopping process needs to change.

It’s a point that was made yesterday by James Rosewell following BBC’s The Apprentice and is also covered in this week’s 361 degrees podcast from Ben Smith, Ewan MacLeod and Rafe Blandford.

The ultimate point of shopping is finding (and buying) what you’re looking for.  It’s not about how much stock a shop has. It’s about how good a product is and how much it costs. Specialist retailers, whether it’s chocolatiers, car showrooms or app shops, have a place alongside hypermarkets and department stores. But putting everything in a pile and letting customers search through it - especially when they don’t necessarily know the name or the appearance of the product they’re looking for - is no way to sell.

Fortunately, it looks as though app stores are realising this.

After all, even jumble sales involve a little curation before the doors are opened.

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Todd Levy

5/15/2011 10:43 AM

Thank you for writing this article.
My name is Todd R. Levy and my company BloomWorlds, is developing Android’s family friendly app store, to help Android parents discover safe, secure, and appropriate apps by utilizing our hands on approach to curation.
We are a specialty app store serving a niche market, Android parents and their children.

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