Friday, 25 November 2011

Buying Software in the Future

Steve Jobs was an incredible man - I think we all agree on that. But to my mind, amongst all his innovations and acumen what he did to converge the mobile and computing market was stunning. I think it was just the first steps in an exciting journey.

Recently, the CEO of Tech Data asserted that smartphones were the products to watch in the next year or two and he knows a thing or two about products as his company sells around $25bn of Hi-Tech kit a year. So it seems the world is set to ride the tsunami of mobility products - smartphones and tablets to the fore.

This has been much the domain of the consumer until recently when we all started to turn up to work with these products that we bought with our own money and insisted they should be put on the network and to heck with the security risks. This 'Consumerisation of IT' or 'BYOD' thing is becoming a huge issue but it brings opportunity.

So what did Steve Jobs do that was so amazing? Well Vodafone and the likes had toyed with sending applications and things to the phone for a while but it was all a bit disjointed and ineffective. Jobs turned it all on its head. He brought the world of computing to the mobile industry by not just inventing a great smartphone but by re-inventing how applications were to be delivered to the phone and he encouraged hundreds of companies, small and large to develop Apps. And he cut out the phone companies from the action. And he cut out the channel from the action too. It was all owned and delivered by Apple - just as he had done with iTunes, the App Store revolutionised the way software is delivered first to phones and then to tablets - and where next?

Unlike Microsoft who opened up the PC market for everyone to develop in, Apple opened up the phone but took on the role of software distributor by providing the only outlet to get the product. And it takes a sizeable cut of the sale for doing so - much more than a distributor would. By creating this bond with its customer, Apple has also become the fastest growing Cloud storage company in the world when they delivered iCloud. Suddenly the bonds with Apple get stronger and it spreads across the spectrum of Apple iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. This is a superb business model for the future as you can just layer on more products and services easily.

So is this the template for the future of PC software purchases? As yet there has been no great move by a single large company to try to emulate Apple but there are few parallels in the PC industry other than Apple themselves. This leads me to think that the software hypermarket company of the future has yet to emerge.

I can imagine a company setting up an AppStore software hypermarket and aggregating as much software as possible for consumers and small businesses to buy - both traditional perpetual licence software and Cloud based. Such a company could cut out traditional channels as Apple have done. It's not as easy to do as Apple have farmed their own base in doing so whereas there are loads of PC vendors out there. 

That's why I think the software store of the future will be independent of vendors and potentially not of the channel today. Now who could that be? Amazon? Google? Wal-Mart?

Calx Europe is a Business Acceleration company specialising in working with vendors and channel to develop and implement strategies in the Cloud market. Call +44 (0) 207 193 2356 for a no obligation discussion.

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