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Is there a Long Tail for Apps?

on December 14, 2010

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Mendix was recently mentioned in a nice post on the GetApp blog about the top cloud stories in 2010. Always happy to hear from our friends at GetApp, we’re even more excited to start seeing Mendix apps populate the GetApp marketplace now that Mendix is listed as a platform. The enterprise world has gone app crazy this year, and I’m proud to hear that Mendix apps are regarded as true game-changers by their users.

If you’re not familiar with GetApp, it’s an enormous marketplace for business applications of all kinds. Talk about options – there are thousands of apps for every purpose, ranging in every possible characteristic you can imagine. The sheer number of choices here reminds me of the philosophy of the Long Tail. You think there will be a long tail of apps?

The Long Tail

In his book, The Long Tail, Chris Anderson explains the value in harnessing the web for free distribution of content. The long tail philosophy refers to a normal distribution of goods, where most merchants are selling those that are in highest demand; the aggregate value of goods not being sold is actually larger than that of the limited number of high-demand goods.

Here’s a [very] quick example: In a music store, each album takes up a certain amount of shelf space. In order to pay for that space, they must sell say – a minimum of ten copies of that album per year. In order to make sure ten albums get sold, they have to only sell albums that will sell that many –AKA: the short head. By selling a virtually unlimited number of albums online, including the ones that only get sold say, once every five years, online retailers are utilizing the long tail. The five million albums that sell once per year generate more revenue than the five thousand albums that sell 100 albums per year. Do the math.

The Long Tail of Apps

So then, if apps can now be created more quickly and easily than ever before – a world of customized applications for every possible solution is coming of age. Therefore, the need for ‘boxed’ solutions – or those that are meant to serve a myriad of industries or organizational departments with the same application – may be diminishing in the same fashion online retailers are winning business from retail stores.

Crowd-sourced by their originators, online marketplaces like the Mendix AppStore and GetApp will offer tons of apps for every possible purpose. The jury is still out on how this will change the way enterprises buy software (politics and blue chips seem to always play a role) – but if we can learn anything from past executions of this phenomenon, CIO’s may be buying apps in the future the same way they buy their MP3s today.

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