The following is a modified post from the Motley Fool Editors' Blog. You can see all the posts here.
You know those "a-ha!" moments, when you see something so ridiculous that you just know a corporate trend has jumped the shark?
Well, make a note in your dayplanners, investing world. Jan. 8, 2010 is officially the day that the app store craze reached absurdity.
Sure, apps are cool. Apple's
Smartphones are closed systems where the browsing experience is usually suboptimal, thanks to small screen sizes, a lack of dynamic Web features (Flash, etc), and an inability to download and run most executable files (like games). Apple's App Store solution fixed most of this, and the iPhone's large targeted audience spurred developers to unleash a wave of innovation.
Apps took advantage of the unique strengths of smartphones, creating tools that were unnecessary on a personal computer. Cool innovations included programs that could detect a song being played, GPS-enabled programs that sought out nearby restaurants and stores, and even camera-enabled barcode scanners that could quickly look up reviews of products.
These apps aren't nifty because of their complexity; each generally serves a single, simple task. Instead, apps are impressive because they harness the strength of smartphones -- mobility -- to create shortcuts for everyday situations. On a PC, any of the above programs would be limited in utility. You're not logging onto a computer or netbook wherever you go.
Which makes Intel's
Everybody into the pool!
Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but isn't the Internet one giant app store in and of itself? You can go to any number of aggregate sites to find free downloadable files. Plus, netbooks just don't create the same demand for these kinds of limited-use downloadable programs.
Besides, app stores from Apple's competitors have already had enough of a problem keeping their catalogs stocked. Simply put, aside from the iPhone (and debatably Android), developers haven't found it profitable to develop for app stores. Even with its enormous user base, Research In Motion struggled to hit 2,000 apps by the middle of last summer. There's no updated count, but I've used RIM's App World, and trust me, it's not very impressive.
Does Intel really think its "AppUp Center" can spur further innovation on netbooks? Given that platforms like RIM's BlackBerry phones, with 36 million active users forced to download apps only from one central store, still can't create a compelling product, what chance does Intel have?
Developers have limited incentive to develop for Intel's app store because:
- They have multiple distribution channels on the Internet.
- The limited breadth of apps on most also-ran app stores makes them less appealing to PC users.
Long story short, Intel's just creating an aggregator of applications that are already available from other sources on the Internet -- and that's the best-case scenario. I know that pushing computing beyond the confines of the PC is all the rage today, but you've jumped the shark on this one, Intel. Give it up.
Eric Bleeker owns shares of no companies listed above. Intel, Microsoft, and Nokia are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel, and a diagonal call on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy is presented in full 3-D, and unlike Avatar, it isn't just a ripoff of Disney's Pocahontas.