I can't help but hear echoes of the past when developers wax ebullient about all the money to be made in iPhone apps. If you believe the hype, even an app that does absolutely nothing can net thousands.
Given the economic misery that dominates the headlines these days, what developer wouldn't be lured by that? But it's fool's gold -- of course it is -- just like the Web boom of the late 1990s and the multimedia CD-ROM gold rush before that.
Still, there's something intriguing about Apple's App Store and the curious ecosystem it has created. Bubble it may be, but consumers have never bought software like this before. A recent study by Pinch Media showed that most iPhone users rarely use an app more than a few times -- and yet they keep downloading them anyway. Often they even pay for them.
What is it about this new device that it's able to transform customer usage patterns so profoundly? The more I think about it, the more I think the iPhone may be more than just the latest manifestation of the tech gold rush phenomenon -- it may actually be a sneak peek at the consumer software market that is to come.
The netbook revolution
There's one product category that's selling even faster than the iPhone, and that's netbooks.
This surprised me at first. I've enjoyed the netbooks I've tested so far immensely; I'm typing this blog on one now. But I was one of those few who were willing to pay hefty premiums for ultralight laptops long before the netbook concept was ever conceived. As I understood it, I was a niche market.
Lately, however, I've come to see things differently. What makes netbooks appealing to the average consumer is not their light weight. It's not even their price point -- at least, not entirely. What sets netbooks apart is that they are arguably the first products designed specifically for the late stage of the PC product life cycle. In years to come, we may mark the introduction of the Eee PC as the beginning of the post-PC era.
[ In addition to success in the consumer market, netbooks are starting to make business sense as well. ]