Welcome to App World

Posted: 01.26.11

This blog is being written with the full assumption that it's going to have to be rewritten in the next day or so, but sitting right here, right now, it sure does look like MacWorld has become iPad world … not that there's anything wrong with that.

The good news is that after pre-registering for the conference, I'm getting plenty of email from exhibitors pleading for my august presence. It looks like there's plenty of exhibitors. The bad news is that we don't really cover apps that manage social networks, or games that go boop.

So lets go back to thinking positively. There is an entirely new market opening up right in front of our eyes and it's far from clear how it's going to end up. The examples from the news today vary wildly. In addition to all the apps that are appearing for the iPad, there is plenty of cross development for Android, and, in fits and starts, a new generation of Palm devices from HP. The PC people are also getting into the act. We've talked about CAD giant PTC's creation of an app store for its product line. (Now they're trying to figure out how to explain to people that an app version of Pro/E isn't going to cost $9.99.) Just this morning Graebert, the CAD company that has developed DraftSight as a free 2D CAD drafting tool for Dassault and SolidWorks announced its own sort of app store: Graebert market for DraftSight. When it officially launches in April, Graebert hopes to have an array of CAD add-on apps for electrical engineering, rendering, landscaping, home design, parts catalogs, to keep customers coming back for more. Hey, it worked for Autodesk.

It's not really about iPads, or apps, or big companies looking for new ways to distribute. Really, it's about direct connections to the user. There's another announcement today that points to new directions for computing and that's the news that Disney is laying off half of their game development staff. The first takes on the news suggest that Disney, like much of the game industry is turning its attentions from big, expensive game development to more lightweight casual games and social gaming. The shrinking of big game development teams is endemic through the industry. To some of these companies behind the eight-ball of expanding budgets and decreasing sales, moving to simple little apps for mobile Facebook is looking mighty enticing.

App stores, whether they're selling CAD add-ons, games to go boop, or an application to turn on your television, forge a direct link to the customer. It can be a conduit through which the money can flow and that's what the people moving to small decentralized teams, small apps, and (usually) small prices are thinking.

I'll let you know what's really up with MacWorld when I get back.