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Could the Mac App Store eliminate boxed software inventory?


Blogger Arnold Kim over at MacRumors published an interesting conjecture today -- that Apple is planning on eliminating the space-consuming inventory of boxed software at Apple Stores through an emphasis on purchasing apps through the Mac App Store.

The post provides compelling evidence of proof of this, including a quote from Apple's plans for the Personal Setup for Mac service which states that the employees who set up your Mac will "walk you through the Mac App Store." To me, the key point is in the next line, where it is stated that "boxed software also takes up retail space that could be used for higher profit items like iPad or iPhone accessories."

As a person who has been visiting Apple Stores since 2003, I've seen Apple moving in this direction for eight years. Early in the evolution of the Apple retail stores, there was an emphasis on boxed software in aisles of wooden shelves, as well as an in-house theater for training. Now there are very few shelves, most located in the back of the stores and with the majority of space devoted to Apple-branded software. Training is done primarily through One-to-One sessions at the actual tables where devices are displayed.

So what about those applications that aren't currently in the Mac App Store? For example, you can't purchase any Adobe or Microsoft apps at this point. Apple might be tempted to use the early success of the Mac App Store to pressure big traditional software houses like these to start distributing their wares in the Mac App Store. However, I'm not sure that people purchasing the entire Adobe Creative Suite are going to have the patience to wait for long downloads. Will Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" be distributed through the Mac App Store? Nobody knows for sure, but that's something that Apple needs to consider before pulling the plug on boxed software.

Regardless of how Apple handles the fringe cases like this, it does appear that Apple's desire to sell apps entirely through electronic means may have a profound effect on the look of the Apple retail stores in the near future. What do you think? Will boxed software and books disappear from Apple Stores soon? Leave your comments below.

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