Have app stores officially jumped the shark? uTorrent, one of the most popular BitTorrent client programs available today with over 50 million monthly users, has launched a new version of their software (codename: Griffin) which now includes extensions, aka “apps.”
Yes, that’s right, even uTorrent has an app store now.
Apps for Torrents
The news of Griffin’s release, found here in the uTorrent Labs section of the company’s website, comes by way of Torrent Freak, where they detail some of the apps available at launch. One is a free virus scanner for checking the safety of downloads, for example, another monitors and controls torrent downloads from a browser.
At one time, features like these would just be baked into a product’s release. Virus-scanning torrents? That sounds handy. But instead of making it a feature, it’s an optional “app.”
Unconventional App Stores
uTorrent isn’t the only unconventional program to get its own app store. Earlier this week, location-based social network Foursquare launched its own so-called app store, the Foursquare App Gallery. Here, 10 or so apps built using Foursquare’s API are featured in categories like mobile, websites, games and more. The idea of Foursquare, which most think of as an “app” itself, having its own “app store” seems a little odd, though. But in this case, Foursquare is actually service on which apps are built.
Another app, the Layar Reality Browser, a mobile augmented reality application for Android and iPhone, also just launched its own “app store,” the Layar content store where businesses can create branded AR experiences and sell them through Layar. It’s an app store for an app!
App Stores that Replace the Internet
And let’s not forget this year’s earlier app store announcements: Intel’s Appup center is an application store designed especially for netbook computers. Yes, nebooks, also known as small computers. Computers which already have access to a big app store known as the “Internet.”
The AppUp center, meant to be a white-label offering that PC manufacturers can customize to their own needs, launched at January’s Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas where the company also announced several partnerships…including one with Acer. Who then went on to announce their own, secondary Acer app store.
Another interesting “app store” launch is the new App Gallery for Google Analytics, the website visitor tracking service. There are over 30 applications found here, including widgets, gadgets and other apps for data collection, business intelligence, content management, email marketing, reporting, auditing and more.
Plus, you have the mobile carriers who are also reinserting themselves into the app store business – the insanely profitable “app store” business ($7 billion by year-end!) – whose madness was kick-started by Apple years ago.
Verizon, for instance, launched the “Vcast App Store,” where customers can buy mobile apps and pay for them on their next monthly phone bill.
Argh! Will it never end?
When Does “App Store” Jump the Shark?
Don’t get us wrong, we love apps as much as the next guy, but is the term “app store” starting to become over-used? Is the fact that everything these days has an app store a reflection on how we use modern technology? That is, has technology been “dumbed down” for the masses into concepts they can understand? (There’s an app for that!).
In some cases, the convenience of a company’s official app store is a good thing – like in Google’s Analytics case, where you can easily find new tools to manage your site. However, in other cases, pointing customers to an “official” app store may be limiting, as with Intel, where the AppUp center directs netbook owners to install apps from a single portal instead of via the Internet. Foursquare, too, is only showing a small sample of apps – only 10 of the 500 that are out there. (The company hopes developers will submit theirs for inclusion on the site).
Even Apple keeps people from finding the best apps for their devices by limiting customer’s to the official iTunes App Store when outside their walls are apps that turn your iPhone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, apps that allow you to use more peripherals with your iPad and even apps that let you sync your iPhone with your computer via Wi-Fi.
In other words, app stores, while convenient, can limit choice. You often trade diversity for ease-of-access. And that may not be the best bandwagon to jump on.