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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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Back Up
By cfaalm on 2/7/2011 4:43:27 PM , Rating: 2
I always liked the idea of a CD or DVD with the software on it as a kind of fall back. How does it even work if you accidentally delete the file? Forgive me my noobness but I never downloaded a payed app. I usually resort to open source stuff, buying a physical package on line or apps that you buy in a conventional store.




RE: Back Up
By UNHchabo on 2/7/2011 6:20:58 PM , Rating: 2
Well, with Steam at least, once you buy a game, it's tied to your account, so even if you delete it, or move to a different computer, you can just re-download it.

I can't speak to other digital distribution services.


RE: Back Up
By Strunf on 2/8/2011 7:36:54 AM , Rating: 2
That's what I like on Steam, you can save all the Steam folder and copy it anywhere and it works without having to install it again or doing the updates, the only thing you need to do is to create a new shortcut and you're set!


RE: Back Up
By kmmatney on 2/7/2011 6:35:00 PM , Rating: 2
If you delete the file, or lose your DVD, you just sign in and re-download. It's actually safer, and easier, since you can't lose it, and you get the latest versions. I've bene pretty happy with Steam.


RE: Back Up
By nafhan on 2/8/2011 7:52:59 AM , Rating: 2
You can actually burn an installable copy of most games onto a DVD after you download them. Since you still need to be connected to Steam to authenticate the backup copy, it's not terribly useful unless you've got a slow connection or you reimage your PC a lot.
I used a DVD backup to install a game for someone with dial-up. They bought the game, installed off my backup DVD, authenticated on Steam and started playing.


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