Just about everyone is aware of the concept of application stores for mobile phones by now. The iPhone App Store and the Android Market contain tens of thousands or applications that you can purchase, download, and activate–all on your smartphone.
Traditional Windows applications, however, are often using the same installer and packaging helper apps that were used for software distribution a decade ago. Many software vendors–and many software users–dislike this model. Usage is difficult and onerous to enforce, and as a result, software piracy costs the industry billions of dollars each year. Users often have to uninstall software on one machine before they can use it on another–which makes it very difficult when one’s hard drive has crashed or when one’s laptop has been stolen.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a way both issues can be improved. Requiring an internet connection, a username, and user credentials is often a much easier way to enable both usage and application portability.
The problem with SaaS is that most vendors believe their Windows applications have to be re-engineered (and often dumbed-down) to work on browsers. This leads to slow, feature-poor applications. Compare Google Apps to Microsoft Office. Google Apps gives you basic functionality, but isn’t nearly as feature-rich as Office. Sharon Slayton of the San Francisco Examiner said, “if you’re a serious document construction kind of person, the Google Docs App will leave you cold and wanting for your big, plush, feature-rich Microsoft Word, at least for now.”
And for the world beyond office applications, the SaaS world has a similarly bleak outlook. For vendors who have rich, complex, resource-intensive apps, re-engineering for browsers is often not a viable solution.
It’s clear what customers and vendors need: an app-store model for Windows applications. In this model, the features required are:
- The ability to purchase software
- The ability to download software quickly
- Usage enforcement and tracking
- Application portability
- Minimizing application and PC conflicts
- Automatically applying patches and upgrades without bothering the user
In other words, a Windows application store would have all the advantages of SaaS without requiring re-engineering or a dembing-down of the feature set to deliver the app to the user.
Next: How app virtualization and streaming can address Windows app stores