Talking tech since 2003

One of the biggest announcements at the “Back to the Mac” event in October was that Mac OS X was going to get an “App Store” in which developers could market their software applications and users could purchase and install them with relative ease.  While there are definitely some flaws with the idea, I think that the OS X App Store will be relatively successful.  There are a few great things that such a store can bring, such as the ability to ease the installation process, create a universal distribution system, allow software vendors to sell their products, etc.  With Microsoft in a desperate need to phase out the Windows Installer, I think it would be wise of them to follow Apple (and Linux, which has used a repository system from the beginning and now starting to see better distribution systems) and ponder if the universal distribution system is indeed a viable solution for Windows.

As I’ve already mentioned, Linux has taken advantage of the “repository” system from the get-go, allowing users to download software from trusted sources.  In Windows, this would eliminate the number of people who download misleading products such as rouge software that poses as an anti-virus product but is in reality a piece of malware in itself.

In the same sense, piracy would be decreased if people were to download all of their software from a standardized distribution center.  Having said this, pirates on the Internet would inevitably be able to work around any mechanisms put in place with a Windows software store, however the incidents involving “casually sharing” purchased software with friends would surely drop.  This would ultimately allow for the software developers to be better compensated for their work.

And for the users, the ability to download their software in the most simplistic fashion possible would be of great bennifit, simply because they would no longer have the same that they do now: downloading a setup file, following the directions for installing it, going through that vendor’s activation methods, etc.  While this would be good for the end-user, it would also help the developers of software because people would be more likely to download their software.

At the same time, there are handful of reasons why a software center in Windows would be a horrible failure.  First off, you have to consider that Windows currently holds a a majority of the operating system market-share.  This means that Windows would have to convert a significantly higher number of users to a software store in order for it to take off.  This is in comparison to Mac OS X, which has a smaller user-base that would be significantly easier to move over.

This being, as horrid as the current software installation process is on the Windows platform, many end-users are familiar and comfortable enough with it that they would flat-out oppose any changes presented.

As much of a challenge as it would be for users to switch over, I think switching developers over would be a much greater challenge.  You see, Microsoft has been using the traditional software installation method for so long that developers have taken it upon themselves to develop their own content distribution systems.  Looking at companies such as Adobe which have a complex activation system already in place, and Valve’s “Steam” distribution system for games, I find it hard to imagine such companies abandoning their distribution processes in favor for a universal one.

When all is said and done, I honestly don’t think that Microsoft will be able to convince their mass of users (and of course, developers) that a content distribution system is the way to go.  Even if they were able to, it stands that migrating the users, developers, and previously installed software would be somewhat of a hassle.  This isn’t to say that the same problem isn’t going to exist with the OS X App Store, but when you have a larger pool of users you’re guaranteed to have a larger pool of problems.

Would you use a Windows software store?  Let us know in the comments!

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