Apple has started publishing Web previews for apps in its iTunes Store, a move that may signal the company’s willingness to extend its focus beyond traditional desktop applications.
It’s not an abandonment of iTunes by any means. Online links to apps like Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies Lite still launch the iTunes desktop program, but they also now load a Web page with information about the app.
iTunes has been a phenomenal success for Apple and it isn’t likely to disappear soon. It’s a critical component for device and media management on any Mac and many Windows computers. But it needs better Web integration, the Web being the only common platform for present and future mobile devices (as much as Adobe may wish otherwise).
Apple may not be thinking specifically about getting ready for Chrome OS — Google’s forthcoming browser-based operating system. But the impending arrival of Chrome OS netbooks and other devices later this year demands planning for the post-desktop era.
Apple’s purchase of Lala, a Web-based music service, late last year and its billion dollar investment in a server farm in North Carolina suggest that planning is well underway.
The company launched Web previews for music last November. In time, other iTunes content like video may be viewable and even available for purchase through a Web browser.
Or not. Jason Grigsby, VP of mobile and Web strategist at application design firm Cloud Four, believes that Apple’s embrace of the Web is more about search than the shift toward cloud computing.
"By doing this, Apple is actually getting content into search engine results," he said. "They have a lot of trouble with people being able to find content in iTunes. With 140,000 apps, there’s a lot of information to find."
By making iTunes apps easier to find through Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines, Apple and its developers could sell more apps.
"It’s apparent from an outside perspective that they’re spending time thinking about how to provide quality search results," he said.