October 04, 2009

Re: The New Math

I had a request for explication on this post, so here goes. Software's a more familiar concept:
  • It usually can't be had for less than $15, usually a bit more.
  • You probably wouldn't qualify it as an impulse purchase.
  • It has a reputation that transcends whatever platform it's on. People happily use MS Office on the Mac and get cranky when the feature set doesn't line up with the PC version.
  • It is the product that the company wants to sell.
  • It's often a tool that can be used for work: office suite, photo editor, etc.
  • You may use it as part of collaborative work, but your regular use probably doesn't involve someone else sitting at the same terminal with you.
Apps, on the other hand:
  • Are often free, typically no more than $5.
  • They're cheap enough to buy on a whim.
  • The brand they help is usually that of the host platform. Apple will run an ad to show you some of the more interesting apps you can get for the iPhone, but the ad is ultimately for the iPhone.
  • A large company will often offer something for free so their brand has a presence on the device. It can be a gimme to get people to draw people to their core product.
  • It's often an object for play. People get excited about the app that tells them what's playing over the bar's PA, less so about the tip calculator.
  • It's often used as an object for social play and status, with people you're physically near: "check out this neat app that I got!"
This last distinction is where things get interesting. Software has historically been an extension for office appliances. The ubiquity of powerful, portable devices, low cost of their add-on software, and intended use of that software has produced different from the original vision behind desktop computing. "Social" is an overused buzzword nowadays, but here's one place where a little more exploration is in order.

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