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Counterpoint: 200,000 apps is what they want (37signals.com)
70 points by joshuacc on June 23, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

As I'm sure Jason knows -- the iOS app store actually has over 400,000 apps. But at 200,000 was it a poor shell of its current self?

The problem with Mac vs PC in the old days was threefold:

1) Device drivers

2) Enterprise LOB apps (think VB)

3) Games.

These three concerns actually probably played a much larger role than app availability in the mid-90s. Apple stagnating the late 90s made it a no brainer. But now with OS X (1) has been knocked off the table. Notice no one talks about the much larger PC app ecosystem. Because it really doesn't matter once you get beyond a reasonable number of apps on the platform.

For this reason, I have no problem recommending a phone based on how well it nails the basics. My MIL has no clue what Color is, nor will she likely ever miss it.

Just in case anyone else wondered what LOB meant, it's line of business: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_of_business

Citing: "Line of business (LOB) is a general term which often refers to a set of one or more highly related products which service a particular customer transaction or business need."

What is a MIL?


Surely, it's a case of each person only having 10 or so apps that matter to them, but it's kinda a different 10 for everyone.

Like the old, 80% of users only use 20% of the features. But it's a different 20%.

This. I'd like to give you 100 upvotes if I could. Add to this, even the same user doesn't want use the same 20% of the all the time. Tastes change, preferences change, new apps come out.

What @dhh's argument reduces to, is that the long tail doesn't matter. But only, it really does. But as you say, the long tail is what makes it a great UX for users.

Absolutely. And when you start talking about games especially, the long tail matters even more.

I tend to be on the "MORE APPS" side of this discussion.

I like apps and in particular I like games. I spend a decent amount of time on the train every day standing up so reading would be unpleasant for me. I listen to music or play a simple game while I ride to pass the time. The people who produce those games provide me a real service.

But Nokia have an app store, and there are plenty of apps on it. I bought apps from the Nokia store and some of them I use everyday. s2putty, the app I used the most, is free (and a million times better than anything you can kludge on iOS).

Apps are better on Symbian than they are on iOS they're just not as shiny.

I disagree.

A certain category of Symbian apps may be better than their iOS equivalents, but some other categories such as games are way better on Apple devices, and this situation is not going to change tomorrow. The fact that game studios are right now hiring iOS (and Android) developers is a sign. Even here in Japan, I've been seeing more and more job offers for iOS developers, while I can't recall any Symbian offer.

There are also the social apps that tend (at least from a personal point of view) to be much more usable on iOS than on Symbian. Take the Facebook app as an example.

Maybe s2putty is better than Prompt for iOS, but is it really a million times better ? You may not be the target for those 400'000 apps, but saying Symbian apps are better is not right.

Whilst you make a valid point, the N9 doesn't run Symbian, it runs MeeGo/Harmattan/Maemo (or whatever they're calling it now), which is based on Debian. Nokia's Ovi store for Maemo has just a handful of apps. There's also about 2000 lovely open source programs in the repositories but not many people count them as they're non-commercial.

I have this weird vision that apps (and apps stores) are just a temporary solution for current lack of fast wireless connectivity and not so strong CPUs in mobile phones. I believe that in 3 years from now, apps will be so passée...

But what's the alternative you're thinking about? Is it web? Honest question because you can be thinking about so many other things...

I may be an exception to the rule (though hopefully less exceptional on HN) but there are many reasons why I'm still probbly going to buy the N9, dispite Nokia abandoning the platform. Here's why:

Nokia is marketing Qt as the N9's development platform. They're also porting Qt to their S40 platform which is powering "the next billion". Apps written for these devices should (hopefully) also run on the N9.

The N9 is based on Maemo, which already has a few thousand open source apps for it. These apps will need porting but as Maemo 5 and 6 are quite similar this shouldn't be too difficult. This includes Python, PHP, Ruby, Emacs, vi and loads of other cool stuff (for people like me, at least).

There is an Android port (called NITDroid) for the Maemo 5-based N900. This doesn't currently let you make / receive phone calls but it can do everything an Android tablet can do and thousands of Android apps can be installed on it. I would be suprised if someone hadn't got NITDroid working on the N9 within a couple of months of launch.

Being Linux, Maemo runs many standard Linux programs if they are recompiled. I have The Gimp and Netbeans on my N900, for example. I can also chroot into a standard ARM Debian install and run Apache & MySQL. People will probably have Ubuntu running on the N9 soon.

As for games, Maemo shares quite a lot of its architecture with WebOS and many WebOS games run on the N900.

I think the main problem with the original argument is that apps aren't just "things you might use every day or never".

For the app consuming community most of the apps we get are cheap/free impulse buys that are never meant to be anything more than tiny bits of consumption, no different from that book, magazine or toy which people bought to amuse themselves during the boring parts of life. Life goes on without them but it sucks a little less with them.

Most people don't even know what OS their phone is running. They don't want 200000 apps - they want large screens with cute, tiny rectangles on it.

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