Is Shrink-Wrapped Software Dead?

Web 2.0

The latest issue of Time (March 17) questions whether we’ll soon see the end of commercial software installed on the PC in favor of web-based apps that do pretty much the same thing. Except for free and without the associated complexity.

I have discussed the web vs. LOB app issues in business use extensively and I believe that the trend to the web will continue. Simply because it cuts costs. Not just in the purchase price of the software but also the maintenance, patching, upgrading and migrating from one version to the next. Not to mention a full time person (or a support contract from an IT solution provider) to keep it all together.

Home market is a different story. While at work you create documents, print invoices, email extensively and manage appointments and calendars, your home life might be a little different. Editing pictures. Producing video. Webcam with friends and family. All very bandwidth intense applications, where having 10,000 fonts makes a huge difference. Has anyone sent you a business memo written in Windings? Now have you ever plucked a funky font for a flyer or a party announcement?

Web applications are great for business which needs the bare minimums to get the job done. For home use, I expect something to compensate for my lack of skill, even if I need to throw the processing power of a small server at it to make it look good.

I don’t think that the home / end user market is going to be as driven to the web apps as they will to the sub-$100 commercial software. Go to your local Best Buy, the most successful electronics dealer in America, and compare the square footage they dedicate to boxed software when compared to the flat screen TVs. They wouldn’t dedicate that much space to something that didn’t sell.

For the sake of the argument, here is what Anita Hamilton offered as the paid software vs. free software alternatives:

Paid Software

Free Software

Adobe Photoshop Elements


Microsoft Office

Google Docs

World of Warcraft


Family Tree Maker

What do you think?

6 Responses to Is Shrink-Wrapped Software Dead?

  1. Mike S says:

    It would be tough to work extensively in google docs so i will just wait for web 2.1…

  2. Amy B says:

    In the web apps vs boxed apps war I think that the productivity loss in applications that don’t work seemlessly together will prevent web apps from taking off in the business sector. At home? It doesn’t matter that much. I’m playing anyway. So the web apps are fine.

  3. Chris Knight says:

    I think you have a bizarre idea of work.

    I can’t see the likes of AutoCAD, MicroStation, PhotoShop, Xara, SCADA, etc being Web 2.0’ed anytime soon. Maybe Web 4.0 though.

  4. Jeremy says:


    With all due respect, you must have a really limited scope of software exposure and seems limited to CAD area. That covers maybe 2% of the software sales whereas everyone has Word, Excel and apps easilly replaced by Web 2.0ish alternatives.

    I don’t see eye to eye with Amy B either. At home, it either works right away or I get distracted with something else. Ever tried to upload an SD card to flickr or similar? It can take hours.

  5. StaceyC says:

    World of Warcraft…Scrabulous??? ROFLMAO!!!


    But that is a great example of the differencees in PC based and cloud based apps. Do you want a fully immersed, 3D world…or do you want to play word games with Aussies? I agree that things are heading to the web, it’s inevitable…but, for now, there will be a huge dividing line between the Google Apps users, and the AutoCAD users that will keep some apps on the desktops.

  6. Pingback: Family Tree Maker » Is Shrink-Wrapped Software Dead?

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