Windows 8 will be chock full of shiny new features, among which is of course a centralized app store. Let’s put aside our feigned shock and awe at this announcement and discuss whether or not this represents a potential threat to OS X or if it’s merely the technology industry doing what it does best: following wherever Apple leads.
The Apple Way
Apple is hardly ever the very first person to come up with an idea. Despite what some think, Apple didn’t invent the mouse or the GUI, nor were they the first to market a portable MP3 player, touchscreen phone or tablet.
However, none of these ideas truly changed the world forever until Apple took them on, then they did exactly that. Apple, and Steve Jobs is a huge part of this, has a way with the future. Their corporate culture is somehow better equipped to take technologies that should be ubiquitous but aren’t, and make them that way.
They analyze the market better than anyone and even take significant steps to prep that market for the delivery of a revolution. For example, January, 2001: here’s a free app called iTunes, get used to digital music because we’re secretly prepping the iPod for release later this year.
Most companies are in a position to only make desperate guesses at what the next big thing will be, Apple practically decides it. They succeed where others fail by doing the opposite: they don’t rush a crappy product to market to take advantage of temporary hype, they hide away in secret until it’s so far past what anyone else has done that customers can’t help but drool as they absentmindedly reach for their credit cards.
The recent app revolution follows in true Apple form. They certainly didn’t invent centralized digital distribution of software, they did however turn it into something that everyone with a digital device wants and expects: a limitless storehouse of utilities, games, and every thing else users could possibly ask for.
They perfected the App Store model on iOS and have successfully carried it over to the Mac. When you spend $1,000 on your very first Mac, your initial visit to the App Store free downloads section confirms that your money was well spent. This machine won’t gather dust, it’s taking you places.
Apple has once again taken an old idea and turned it into something that we can’t live without.
The Windows App Store
When the wizards at Apple work their magic on something like this, the rest of the industry has no choice but to follow along, Miicrosoft Zunes and Dell Jukeboxes in tow.
It used to be the case that availability of apps was the single biggest argument against buying a Mac. “Macs don’t have enough games” or “Macs don’t have what I need for work” were sentences that every reluctant switcher spoke. These days, Apple’s strongpoint is its unstoppable mob of third party developers who create and release truly amazing software daily, all available in a single, easy to use marketplace.
The Mac App Store is a clear example of a competitive advantage (one of many) against Windows. The response is the obligatory one: Windows 8 will have an app store (source). I certainly won’t blame them for “copying” Apple’s strategy, in all honesty, how could they not? App stores for any platform are no longer a bonus, they’re a basic requirement.
Should Apple Be Worried?
More relevant than whether or not Apple is being copied is the question of whether or not they should be concerned about it. After all, Windows 8 has some really solid ideas.
Windows 8 is apparently a cross-device system that will scale from small tablets up to large desktops. Also, apps will now launch from a full screen grid system, which sounds like a Launchpad ripoff but admittedly looks far more useful. Throw in the app store to sweeten the deal and Windows 8 is looking pretty good!
Here’s the reality: Windows is already the most popular desktop operating system in the world and it will stay that way for some time (notice I didn’t say forever). If it held on to that lead through Vista, Windows 8 will likely not mark then end of Microsoft’s reign.
Form where I’m standing, the arrival of the Windows App Store doesn’t really pose a huge threat to Apple. It’s an example of Windows playing keep up with OS X, not a new innovation that will have Phil Schiller sweating bullets. Sure the potential is huge, but countless other companies have realized that Apple’s App Store success isn’t as easy to replicate as it seems. If we can count on anyone to drop the ball with a project that important, my money is on good old Microsoft.
My attitude towards the Windows App Store probably stems from your stereotypical nut job Mac user superiority complex. Apple was once a tiny bug seconds from being squashed by Microsoft, but those days are long gone. They’re now the primary influence on personal computing on this planet. However, I’m not naive enough to imagine that their current success in indestructible.
Right now, the mere existence of the Mac App Store is a clear competitive advantage for OS X. Soon, this will shift and quality/quantity will become the primary factors for debate, the latter of which Windows might be able to quickly take the lead in. However, all you guys out there developing solely for the Mac and iPhone represent the most talented collective pool of developers anywhere and I’m sure you’ll continue to keep the quality of Mac software far above what anyone can touch.