The victory of the app store?

I just downloaded the latest update to Apple’s computer operating system, Mac OSX, which brings with it an app store, like the sort on your mobile phone, or iPad.

It means that I can browse for, pay for (if necessary) and download software for my computer without having to search the web for it, then do another search for reviews to make sure it’s any good, etc.

There are clear advantages for the consumer – but also for the smaller developers of apps who can now get a shop window on people’s desktops.

As Adrian Short noted on Twitter, there are cost savings to using the app store as compared to, say, buying software on Amazon:

I note that the next version of Windows, 8, will also feature an app store.

This is addition to the web browser based app store that Google have released for Chrome, which I blogged about last year.

App stores aren’t new, and originated on the desktop with the software repositories on Linux systems. But it certainly seems to be a concept that is now reaching the mainstream.

There are different models for app stores, with a principle difference being how open they are. Apple, for example, curate theirs with a iron fist, only allowing apps through which meet their stringent criteria for quality and usability.

The Android store, on the other hand, is an apparently lawless place, with many apps of dubious provenance and quality.

A further interesting development is the Amazon app store for Android – a third party creating its own app store for someone else’s platform!

It will be interesting to see what wins – sheer number of available apps, or better curation through central control? I suspect the latter as user experience ought to be key.

What about public services?

Should there be an app store for government? There are two potential scenarios here.

Firstly an app store for public sector workers to use to get applications onto their work computers (or perhaps just their web browsers in the Chrome model). A trusted source of apps to give people greater flexibility in terms of what they can use on their computers.

The advantages of this are considerable. No more pleading of the IT department to let you install Tweetdeck. No more finding that Evernote is blocked. Not sure how likely it is, though.

The second model would be to provide a store for apps for non government people to use to interact with public services.

There would be a number of things that needed to be worked out here, including ensuring apps were available on a range of platforms and devices.

Also, who would run it? I recall David Wilcox’s ideas for a social app store as being a centrally-located but not controlled place where civically minded digital bits and bobs could be used by others to make their place a bit better.

I still like this idea a lot – decentralised, government able to take part and contribute but not own, useful and hopefully not requiring vast amounts of money to build and run.

I’d certainly be interested in others’ views on where an app store might fit into public services, what it would look like and how it could work.

Update: Just come across this interesting post from Stephen O’Grady which is well worth a read: Who’s Going to Build the App Store for the Enterprise?

Update 2: How could I forget? The Knowledge Hub will have an app store in it.

PSFbuzz: Facebook applications

Image credit: Steven Tuck

I had a remarkably fun time up in Manchester last week, chairing the Public Sector Forums event at Old Trafford about local government web 2.0 strategies.

There was a whole lot of Twitter action during the day, which you can take a look at in this Google Spreadsheet. The tweets and other social media bits were all pulled together on the PSFbuzz site.

Also on that site, you’ll find a whole bunch of video interviews which Liz Azyan took. Do have a look through – they are rough and ready in a true social reporter style, but really give a flavour for the day and how delegates responded to the event.

As well as chairing, I was presenting on the subject of Facebook and how Councils are using it, and putting some ideas forward as to how they could do it a bit better.

Effectively, my argument is that applications are a great way for public bodies to engage with people within social networks. The main advantage for me – and one that is particularly pertinent for Facebook – is one of vocabulary, because an application won’t demand that you become its friend, or fan.

I’m currently working up some specifications with a developer of Facebook apps to provide a hosted service for local authorities to have their own Facebook applications at a very reasonable price. If you’re interested in this, then please do get in touch.

My iPhone Apps

Since the iPhone has allowed the installation of third party apps, the utility of the device has increased massively. It just does so much! Here are the ones I find myself using most often:

  • Twitterific – The best twitter client I have used on the iPhone so far. I am still a Twhirl fan on the mac itself, but that isn’t mobile just yet. Still using the ad-supported one, think they made a mistake when they designed the ads to be so easy to ignore!
  • Facebook – the only way I really use Facebook these days. Speeds things up a treat compared to the web version, and the inbuilt messaging service works really well
  • WordPress – only posted once (last night’s test message) using this so far, but it’s great for writing little drafts or notes for potential posts and getting them started
  • EndEvernote – the iPhone app helped me ‘get’ what Evernote could be used for. It allows me to take photos, record snatches of audio or type notes all of which get synced to the EndEvernote desktop app where they can then be exported and used for stuff. I can see myself ditching my Moleskeine for this soon.
  • Google – makes search quicker and easier, and also allows access to other apps, even allowing me to use my Google Apps stuff.
  • Super Monkey Ball – brilliant for quick games here and there, even though I am HOPELESS at it

What other great apps are there I should be using?