App stores are nothing new. Back in the day every computer store of substance had a rack with software titles. The internet became the mother of all app stores back in the 1990s. Instead of traveling to a store to check out the merchandise, you could download apps for Macs or PCs in the form of freeware, donationware, shareware, or commercial apps.
Apple brought the app store concept to mainstream prominence just a few years ago. Since then, everybody and his brother that has anything to do with tech gadgets that use apps, has or wants an app store?
Apple’s App Store is arguably the mother of all app stores. Hundreds of thousands of apps. Tens of millions of customers. Billions of dollars in revenue. Buy, download, and install with a mere click. Apple generates 30-percent of the revenue collected.
And, importantly, a library of apps keeps a customer locked in to Apple’s devices.
There are two reasons why Microsoft, Google, Facebook, BlackBerry, and everyone else wants an app store. First, to prevent their customers from seeking a device and apps somewhere else. Second, money. If they don’t keep their customers from switching to the platform with the most apps, they won’t make as much money.
Simple math, right?
The latest to join the app feeding frenzy is Facebook. What? Facebook App Store? Well, actually, it’s called Facebook App Center.
Wait a minute. Unlike Microsoft, Google, Facebook, BlackBerry, and friends, Facebook doesn’t make and sell a device that uses apps (yet). What Facebook has is a problem.
The social network king has enormous traffic, nearly two-billion eyeballs, and the company is under enormous pressure from investors to monetize that traffic. Advertising revenue is growing as fast as it once was, so Facebook will sell apps to their users.
Sounds simple, right?
From there on it gets complicated. First, Facebook will sell apps for Facebook (users will need Facebook Credits). Second, App Center will also sell apps for PCs and other mobile devices, including Android smart phones, and the iPhone and iPad.
What? How can they do that? Apple has a lock on iPhone and iPad apps. Facebook will simply redirect those customers to the respective Android and Apple app stores.
The Facebook App Center might look great on a PowerPoint presentation to investors, and those hundreds of millions of eyeballs are an attractive revenue stream, but I suspect that Facebook will meet with the same success that Microsoft, Google, BlackBerry and friends have had with their app stores.