Product vs Platform: The App Store

17 Sep

The Internet favors platforms.

Platforms are the intermediaries that deliver products. Platforms cannot exist without products, and products need platforms to be put into context and to be delivered. As our modern consumer culture becomes even more social and connected, the benefits of being a platform become even more apparent.

Apple App Store

The case study for this is of course the Apple App Store. While the iPhone device itself is already impressive the platform that the app store allows the iPhone become is what makes this product so successful. According to the latest data from iSmashPhone, iPhone users spend at least 30 minutes a day using apps and their app market share is 40 times that of their closest competitor!

After seeing the success of the iPhone app store, numerous other phone companies jumped on the bandwagon and released their own. Companies such as
Blackberry , Palm Pre, Google Android, Windows Mobile, Nokia, and Samsung have all tossed their hat into the app store arena.

HP Touch-S,mart Printer

What I find extremely fascinating is that this concept is extending beyond the reach of mobile devices. HP just launched a new printer that allows users to connect to the web and download apps to use on their printer. The printer touts applications for printing out directions, movie tickets, and cross word puzzles.

Here at Roundarch, we are working on some cool touch screen interfaces for a car, and the concept of an in-car app store has definitely been brought up. Even in your living room, Verzion has announced that it is bringing an app store and social media to it’s FiOS-TV.

FiOS TV

While I’m both excited and eager to see products grow into platforms, I’m also anxious to see how thoroughly companies will adopt that philosophy. It seems that “app store” has become a buzzword now, similar in vein to “social media” and “viral”. These are words that marketing departments throw around all the time without fully understanding that they mean, or how these changes will affect the growth and foundation of their company.

The Apple iPhone isn’t just a phone, and I doubt Steve Jobs ever thought it would be. The app store was always a part on what the iPhone was. This isn’t a case of other companies playing catch-up with Apple. Rather, I’m more interested in seeing what the repercussions of haphazardly adding app stores, attempting to change their product into a platform, will be to these companies in the future.

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