Have you noticed the collapse in the market for boxed software? We used to go to Best Buy or Staples or Costco and buy the latest programs in boxes. The only time we do that now is for Quicken and Quickbooks. Just about everything else is either preinstalled on our computers or downloaded.
The latest sign of a changing time came in the announcement that Microsoft is dropping Microsoft Money, the competitor to Quicken that never quite found a place in the market. It’s only the most recent of Microsoft’s cost-cutting decisions and its movement to online services. A few months ago, Microsoft dropped the Encarta encyclopedia; Windows Live OneCare will be off the market completely in a couple of weeks; and it’s already been two years since we lost Digital Image Pro.
Even Microsoft Office may turn into a downloadable product if you buy a new computer and discover it’s not included, or want to add Powerpoint or upgrade your copy of Outlook. Dell just announced that it will be the first place to buy Office online (other than Microsoft, which has had a little-known online store for a while selling its products at full retail prices). The Dell Download Store has an interesting selection of downloadable software at prices that are reasonable – perhaps not the best deal around but certainly the most convenient at times. It seems like a natural fit for Amazon, which launched a software download utility more than a year ago; so far it has never moved past a limited selection of tax software but I wouldn’t expect it to leave the market alone for long.