How I would design the perfect desktop app store

Since releasing my first app to the Mac App Store I’ve been thinking about how I wish I had more options available to me as both a developer and consumer. The following is my wishlist for the perfect desktop app store, basically it takes the best parts of Steam and the best parts of the Mac App Store and combines them.

OS/Vendor Agnostic – The perfect app store needs to work consistently across Windows, Mac, and Linux, and the only way to establish impartiality is to make sure none of the big vendors *own* the store. That said, in order to really take off it would probably need support from some of the major cross platform vendors like Adobe.

Platform Integration – The app store cannot be web only, it has to come with an installable store that manages your applications and lets you browse for new apps to purchase. On the flip side, web purchasing should also be enabled and publishers should be able to embed a framed version of the store in their website to make transactions more fluid.

Buy once, run anywhere – Publishers should be able to set options on whether applications are purchased once for all platforms or require small payments for additional platforms beyond the first one. Ideally you wouldn’t have to pay more for a different platform, but enforcing that rule may discourage publishers from putting in the time to port code.

Multi system – A single login should be usable on up to 5 systems.

Multi user accounts – Families should be able to easily add kids to their account and purchase software for them. Companies should be able to add and remove employees from a company account and assign software to different users. No need for separate company logins, everyone can just use their personal accounts.

Simple receipt system – Apple Mac Store pretty much nailed it on this one. Users don’t have to be logged in like Steam in order to run an app. The way it works is every application is responsible for finding and validating a digitally signed receipt when their app starts. Receipts are generated from app name, app version, and system id, and digital signed. Receipts can easily be downloaded when logging in to a new computer and easily voided when no longer valid.

Simple update system – Apple nailed this one as well, provide simple notifications that updates are available for certain apps, and then handle the process of installing that update.

Application upgrades – Publishers should be able to set options for users to get discounts on major upgrades if they own a previous version. Users should be able to enter serial numbers for existing applications to prove ownership of previous copies.

Cloud Storage – Apps can use up to 50mb of cloud storage per user, paid apps can choose to use a percentage of proceeds to pay for unlimited space for their users.

Developer Tools – Developers need strong guidance on how to package their apps and test them before going live. They should be able to download sample receipts for their app and test the installation process through the store itself before going live.

Freedom of Language – There should be no restriction on languages or technologies (think java) that are allowable in the store. Dependencies lists can be built over time into the store to help facilitate getting users the correct packages for certain apps to run.

I’m sure there’s a few other things I haven’t thought of yet, what would you add?

4 thoughts on “How I would design the perfect desktop app store”

  1. Nothing is perfect, you need lot of effort to advertise. But you are just a developer, cut out to be a businessman, you should leave it to the marketers and they will analysis it right for you.

  2. This seems like a neat idea. I really like it. I wish I could learn to design apps and run an online store. Thanks for sharing, it was some helpful insight.

  3. A really nice starting point for the Requirements Manager of any would-be next-big-app-store. ;)
    One point I would add from a user’s perspective: More powerful sorting and filtering than is common today.

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