As of March 12th, 2011, Apple’s App Store contained 463,131 “apps” for download. That gives it more packages than any other package manager I studied. Despite this, users had the most difficulty finding an application to suit the purpose they needed in the App Store. There appear to be several contributing factors:
- As discussed in a previous post, the sorting of search results was not useful to users, who perceived the search results as presented in a random order.
- Most of the search results were completely irrelevant.
- As will be discussed in a future post, the mechanisms provided to differentiate different offerings were limited compared to other package managers.
Another interesting finding was that the number of applications in the App Store is overstated. Although there are 463,131 apps in the App Store, several factors contribute to inflating that number:
- Many apps had “free” and “paid” versions in the App Store. Many “paid” apps have many listings, with various limited-time and/or limited-use licences. Although they represent different packages in the package manager, they are not truly different applications.
- Many apps had iPad and iPhone versions available. In many cases, the iPad version is merely a repackaging of the iPhone version and not a substantially different application.
- Many “applications” are merely a wrapper around some piece of media, a web application, or an RSS feed. Because only “applications” can be listed in the App Store, and hence sold through Apple’s market, a common practice has developed where developers bundle a PDF reader with an embedded e-Book, an RSS feed reader with an embedded feed, or a browser that always starts on a given web page.
None of these considerations apply to any of the open source package managers I studied. Although the open source package managers, such as Ubuntu Software Center, had far fewer packages in their repositories, users received more relevant, unique results for the same searches.