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Eliminating boxed software and going all-digital would save shelf space at Apple Stores.  (Source: MacRumors)
Love Apple or hate it, the company appears to be leading the industry in a new direction

Apple, Inc. may become the first major PC maker to ditch boxed software and transition its software sales entirely online.  Mac Rumors is reporting that the Cupertino gadget, software, and services provider is in the process of dropping its boxed software lineup and going entirely digital distribution.

The move follows Apple's successful introduction of the iOS App Store in July, 2008 and the introduction of the Mac App Store in October 2010 (the store actually went live earlier this year).  While many were skeptical of how well the model of internet-based software delivery that scored big in the mobile world would translate to the PC, sales so far have been impressive.  It only took the Mac App Store a day to reach a million downloads.

Mac Rumors writes:

Based on what we've heard, however, Apple is planning on making the move to all digital sooner than expected at their retail stores. Apple is working towards eliminating boxed software and presumably focusing sales through the Mac App Store.

They cite recent statements from Apple as clues to this.  In that statement, Apple remarks:

When you purchase a Mac at an Apple Retail store an employee will help you setup your e-mail accounts, walk you through the Mac App Store, setup an iTunes account for you, and show you the basic pointers of owning a Mac. Some stores will even have dedicated Mac setup stations.

There are a number of advantages to digital distribution.  A readily apparent one is that it gives customers instant purchasing access to software from anywhere they have an internet connection.  For businesses it cuts down on retail store space and the costs (monetary, environmental) associated with packaging.

There are also some downsides.  Namely, some high profile software (e.g. Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office for Mac) isn't currently available on the Mac App Store.  Second, the move could be a headache for Mac users with unreliable internet connections (as small in number as that group may be).  Lastly, some like to keep the box art for their software products -- digital distribution removes a bit of packaging charm.  Another issue is piracy, which is reportedly running rampant with Mac App Store software.

Apple may choose to go all digital with the release of OS X 10.7 "Lion", which is expected to be announced at the Worldwide Developer's Conference to be held in early June.

Microsoft is another proponent of digital distribution.  It recently switched to a DVD-free digital download for most of its Office sales, though customers can still order physical media.  Many speculate Windows 8, to be released in 2012 or 2013, will feature a full-fledged app store.



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App stores are a new way to create a monopoly
By HrilL on 2/7/2011 4:36:34 PM , Rating: 5
So Apple is leading the way in Anti-competitive business practices yet again. If you can eliminate the box and train your users to go to your app store then you've now taking control of pretty much all application sales. Eliminating competition from Retail and companies like Newegg and Amazon. If Apple doesn't allow other application stores like with the iPhone then I hope the European Commission slaps them with a multi-billion dollar fine and forces them to. I'm pretty sick of how apple thinks it has the right to control consumers choices.




By The Insolent One on 2/7/2011 6:25:55 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no Apple fan.

However, how many non-iOS mobile phones are there in the world with "applets" that could be downloaded only from their carrier? Millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions?

That software was authored and sold by their carrier only, with no ability for any external competition, with nary a peep of "Hey, where is the competition? This is anti-competitive!"

Apple is offering the next generation of distribution via a Mac App store, but people can still go to BestBuy or order the software online.

Either way, the speed that mobile devices are replacing the "personal computer" will make any possible complaints about a Mac App store short-lived.

I'd rather have maximum competition, but that model isn't convenient for people so they cave-in and click the alternative distribution methods into oblivion. "WTB faster downloads."


By KoolAidMan1 on 2/7/2011 6:59:28 PM , Rating: 3
Do you feel the same way about Steam?


RE: App stores are a new way to create a monopoly
By HrilL on 2/7/2011 8:10:45 PM , Rating: 3
No one forces steam to be installed and used. A lot of the games don't require you to use steam to get them. While Valve games do require steam they have every right to since they own both. Other companies sell their games in many places and steam is just one of those.


By KoolAidMan1 on 2/7/2011 11:07:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
While Valve games do require steam they have every right to since they own both.


Sure, and it is Apple's right to sell things iLife via the App Store if they want to since they own both products. As it stands, you can still buy all Apple software via hard copy, if not through the Apple retail store then via other retailers.

quote:
Other companies sell their games in many places and steam is just one of those.


Same thing with OS X applications. Do you misunderstand the situation and think that Apple has banned all application sales and distribution except through the online App Store? You can choose to buy applications from developer websites, boxed copies, the App Store, or even other digital distribution services.

Example: You can buy software such as Transmit from the developers themselves (http://panic.com/ ), or via the App Store. Your pick.

No choices have been killed here, just like with Steam (with the exception of Valve games). In fact, like Steam it creates convenience for both customers (autopatching rules!) and centralized distribution (smaller developers and companies like Aspyr are making more through the App Store than they had through retail channels) with good profit splits for developers.

You are inventing problems, making a big deal out of nothing.


By nafhan on 2/8/2011 7:39:47 AM , Rating: 2
Step 1: OS X with app store as an alternative
Step 2: OS X with app store as the only means of getting software
Step 3: iOS for the Mac! (it's what you wanted!)
Step 4: Profit (for Apple)

Obviously, that's not guaranteed to happen, but it's what some Mac owners are afraid of. As much as Apple pretends to be about artists and innovators, they haven't been since most of their profits started coming from CE. At this point, I think of Apple kind of like a gentrified urban neighborhood. It used to be about artists and college students, but now it's just rich hipsters :)


By paydirt on 2/8/2011 10:16:09 AM , Rating: 2
(1) I gotta think it would be hard as a consumer to (a) figure out which product to buy and deal with that stress and then (b) stress out more and figure how how much in hundreds of software dollars to buy.

(2) At the store, I think it would be handy to--at a minimum--have display boxes for people to get an idea of what software is available for the Mac and what they might be able to do with that software.

(3) If you're truly selling to the mainstream, I'm not sure that Having a name and an icon will sell $50-$100-$200 pieces of software. It would probably be fairly bewildering to your moms and dads.


By thurston on 2/8/2011 12:27:35 AM , Rating: 2
I bought a boxed copy of Fallout New Vegas and I am forced to use Steam if I want to play it. It took 3 hrs to download updates before I was allowed to play the game the day I bought it. I would have had a much better experience if I would have pirated the game but I felt it was worth paying for, but I am periodically punished for my loyalty by not being able to play the game if my internet connection is out.


By walk2k on 2/7/2011 7:14:32 PM , Rating: 5
mac software?? where??

yeah removing ALL that mac software this will clear up at LEAST 18 inches of shelf space!


By hiscross on 2/7/2011 9:23:29 PM , Rating: 4
You obviously don't understand business. Price controls what people buy. The soul exception is government price controls which eliminates competition and all but eliminated creativity and growth. The latest Barry rant that business needs to make less money and give away profits is sheer socialism. Liberal suck, everyone of them.


By gamerk2 on 2/8/2011 10:47:41 AM , Rating: 2
Uh, no. Its price, demand and supply, not just price. In this case, Apple is moving to take over supply, just like they already did on their mobile platform.

And thats the issue; while no different in concept then Steam, does anyone trust Apple to NOT follow this up by requiring all software be approved and sold on its app store? [IE: Removing optical drives would have teh same effect...].

If Apple doesn't like it, you can't buy it. Thats the fear here.


RE: App stores are a new way to create a monopoly
By CSMR on 2/7/2011 9:47:54 PM , Rating: 2
Nonsense. To be less competitive than the current state of affairs there would need to be two things:
-significant market share for the OS
-inability to run normal apps on the OS
Even then, anti-competitive higher prices on software would imply lower, more competitive prices on the OS, so it's unclear what the total effect is.
Apple doesn't control consumers choices, since they can purchase other products.


By KoolAidMan1 on 2/7/2011 11:12:26 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. They can also buy/manage software through other storefront applications.


By Da W on 2/8/2011 9:55:15 AM , Rating: 2
If MAC owned 80% of the total PC market, then this would be anticompetitive. But with a mere 10%, Apple can do as it wishes.

However, will Microsoft/Adobe be okay with the concept of selling their software via the Mac App store and NOT via their own website, and pay a 30% rake to apple? My guess is they will tell Apple to shove it.


By Tony Swash on 2/8/2011 7:04:24 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
So Apple is leading the way in Anti-competitive business practices yet again. If you can eliminate the box and train your users to go to your app store then you've now taking control of pretty much all application sales. Eliminating competition from Retail and companies like Newegg and Amazon. If Apple doesn't allow other application stores like with the iPhone then I hope the European Commission slaps them with a multi-billion dollar fine and forces them to. I'm pretty sick of how apple thinks it has the right to control consumers choices.


You are missing the point.

This is not about a new model of software distribution per se, it is about improving Apple's already cutting edge retail operation. From what I know the aim is to free up valuable space at the retail stores for an enhanced customer service function. Several very non-techie friends have recently switched to Macs and were very impressed when the Apple staff at the stores offered to transfer all their data and set up their email accounts, iTunes accounts etc on their new Macs. That's the sort of stuff they most ordinary people hate and find scary and difficult. It just another aspect of Apple eliminating any costs to the customer of switching to Macs (or upgrading their Macs)

So it seems Apple wants to expand that area of activity in their retail stores and the old shelves of boxed software looks pretty old fashioned now and takes up a lot of valuable space so it's time for them to go.

For more info see
http://www.9to5mac.com/46611/apple-launching-perso...

Apple are very good at killing the past and embracing the future - hence their success.

In a few years boxed software will as dead as the floppy. Considering that this is supposed to be a techies forum it always surprises me that so many people seem to get so anxious, threatened and het up about actual technical change. Embrace the future - let the past go :)


By Alexstarfire on 2/8/2011 7:58:07 PM , Rating: 2
We've been saying that last part for quite a while. It'd be nice to think that we won't have boxes, but the way most DDs are now I don't see that happening in a few years, perhaps a decade though. I think boxes will always be available, even if you end up having to specifically ask for it and pay more to get it, simply because some people won't have access to the internet.

I thought about this for a while and decided that this made more sense than them just getting bigger stores for 2 reasons. First, you can't really expand stores that are in a mall easily. Second, the software selection in Apple Stores is pretty paltry as is. Fry's has more software for Mac than they do at the Apple Store.


"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer














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