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This article was published on March 15, 2011

There’s an app for that — The demise of software suites.

There’s an app for that — The demise of software suites.
Stefan Meeuws
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Stefan Meeuws

Stefan Meeuws is a IT journalist from Nijmegen (NL) and works as an online producer and editor for ZB Communicatie & Media. He has a pe Stefan Meeuws is a IT journalist from Nijmegen (NL) and works as an online producer and editor for ZB Communicatie & Media. He has a personal website and spends too much time on social networks like Twitter .

Most of the software I review these days fits at least one of the following categories: Security, Performance and Creative (a broad category, I admit, that varies from burning software to office suites). The content of these categories has hardly changed over the past ten years. The fact that software releases are mostly limited to these categories is fine. The fact that the released software lacks innovation and often uses features that are standard in your OS already. Most of the software released these days, is boring. If you don’t believe me, browse around the software section of your favourite (online) retailer. See anything that excites you? No? Thought so.

How different is the world of apps. Apps are fun! They usually do one thing really, really good. It’s not as if ground-breaking mobile apps are released everyday, but there’s more innovation here than there has been in software land in the past five years. These apps vary in price from free to a couple of local currency. Only a few are what you would call “expensive”. While it makes sense to have small, easy to use apps on your phone, I wonder whether it’s a good thing the apps are now making their way to desktop land.

If consumers start to expect that apps are cheap, will they still pay big bucks for big software suites? Or will they expect that those prices will go down too? When I was looking at Parallels Desktop for Mac last week, I noticed that it would cost me 80 euros / dollars. I was hesitant to buy it immediately: I don’t want to pay 80 euros for some software suite I won’t even know how often I’ll use. Isn’t there a 5 euro ‘desktop app’ that does the same (apparently not – at least I haven’t found one)? How many other consumers think the same thing when they see these kind of prices for software these days?

Not every software suite will translate well to tiny apps. Professional software needs to have a lot of options and features. Consumers, however, have been using freeware a lot and in the best case scenario, they will pay for computer security and their office suite and that’s it. And perhaps they’ll even opt for a free antivirus suite. Hopefully they’ll get back-up software that they’ll use (but they probably won’t). Say they’ll buy a maximum of three or four software suites and they’ll be good to go for years. But what will happen now that apps are showing up? Will they be spending more on apps that they used to spend on software? And if they do, will some varieties of software be totally replaced by apps?

People are starting to get used to apps: easy to install, cheap and slick-looking. Even the word “software” sounds bulkier than “app”. If I had to choose, I’d create an app, not software. Software sometimes takes ages to install, has a lot features I’ll never use and feels overpriced. I don’t like software. I do like apps… Give me an app! Of course, once smartphones and tablets get fast enough they can support more advanced apps. Chances are apps will be more like software. But what if we’re by then pampered by the simpler apps? Should software developers switch to the “app model” now: cheaper application with less features? Or should they just make better, more exciting software?