Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Long Tail of Software

In the traditional software model where we purchase it on CD and it comes in a shrink wrap box with a user manual is becoming extinct in a similar way that memos became extinct when email came along. The way software is delivered has dramatically changed in a “flat world” as Thomas Friedman describes our world is flattening as high speed internet connection becomes more ubiquitous. Some software is delivered directly as a service across the web (or the cloud) as Google and companies like is incorporating it into browsers. What is more interesting is the proliferation of smaller applications developed for niche usage delivered to mobile devices such as the iPhone available through the AppStore. In Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail, his thesis was how the efficiency gains in distribution have created a proliferation of products on the tail of a distribution curve which becomes very long compared to its head. Although he uses examples of pop culture products such as music CDs, DVDs and books and how they are delivered through Amazon and Netflix. This has expanded the tail as consumers explore the recommendations purchase items they did not before. This is possible since it is more cost effective of these products to become available compared to its bricks and mortar stores which can not affordably deliver the same physical products. This long tail phenomenon is occurring in all industry and is not limited to just books on Amazon. In the world of software, the AppStore represents a democratizing affect where an independent software developer can compete directly with the Microsoft. Not only does this affect the head of the curve as block buster software is delivered, but the more and more smaller niche applications are on the rise delivering useful apps to their specific audience.

Software in every industry is no longer going to be only made available through the 500 pound guerilla within their own sectors as delivered in a box. There is a shift was more interesting, innovative and more niche applications are coming out and are finding their own audience. Similar to how Amazon pave the way for less known books or iTunes pave the way for music, the AppStore will streamline software delivery to bring about a whole new set of niche applications that will augment and displace the older model of software as we know it.

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