Google just added to the plethora of app stores with a market place for apps for a device that doesn't exist and that that it hasn't even confirmed will exist in the near future! Why the mania for app stores?
Google added to the range of web stores selling or giving away "apps" by announcing the developer preview of its latest app store, the Chrome Web Store.The deal is that you upload your app, pay Google a $5 registration fee and then a 30 cents transaction fee plus 5% of the sale. This seems quite good compared to the fairly standard 30% demanded by other app stores - but the effect of the 30 cent transaction charge is difficult to judge. For example, if you decide to sell your mass market app at $1 then the transaction charge means Google is taking 30% of your income.
Just in case you missed what Chrome OS is all about, it is a web-based operating system. It is essentially a Chrome browser running on top of a minimal Linux OS. Apps can't run as local apps outside the browser. For how it all actually looks and works will have to wait for the release of the first hardware devices that run Chrome OS which could be later this year.
Since Apple announced its App Store for the iPhone the whole idea of selling "apps" via the web has just grown and grown. It seems to be good for the developer community in general but it is important to realise what its effect is. Apps tend to be small and do something fairly insignificant in user terms. Typically an app will implement some missing feature or some diversion such as an old game. Users eventually get tired of such things and the income, along with the market eventually dries up. The only exception to this rule is the essential widget which usually finds its way into the core operating system in a few months, once again cutting off the flow of cash.
Google put its view on the idea of app stores as part of the recent Google I/O conference - you can see the video below:
App stores are good for the hardware manufacturer. While it makes reasonable sense to have an app store for a niche device that needs a niche market, it makes less sense when the manufacturer goes in search of a niche to make its hardware stand out.
For example, Intel launched the Atom app store some time back targeting netbooks. Given a netbook is just an underpowered laptop what we have is an app store supposedly targeting underpowered laptops - crazy!
App stores are good but don't let them divert you from creating the killer app that is more than just a widget.