Application software, also known as an application or an “app“, is computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks. Examples include enterprise software, accounting software, office suites, graphics software and media players. Many application programs deal principally with documents. Apps may be bundled with the computer and its system software, or may be published separately. Some users are satisfied with the bundled apps and need never install one.
Application software is contrasted with system software and middleware, which manage and integrate a computer’s capabilities, but typically do not directly apply them in the performance of tasks that benefit the user. The system software serves the application, which in turn serves the user.
Similar relationships apply in other fields. For example, a shopping mall does not provide the merchandise a shopper is seeking, but provides space and services for retailers that serve the shopper. A bridge may similarly support rail tracks which support trains, allowing the trains to transport passengers.
Application software applies the power of a particular computing platform or system software to a particular purpose. Some apps such as Microsoft Office are available in versions for several different platforms; others have narrower requirements and are thus called, for example, a Geography application for Windows or an Android application for education or Linux gaming. Sometimes a new and popular application arises which only runs on one platform, increasing the desirability of that platform. This is called a killer application.
Application software classification
Application software falls into two general categories; horizontal applications and vertical applications. Horizontal applications are the most popular and widespread in departments or companies. Vertical applications are niche products, designed for a particular type of business or division in a company.
There are many types of application software:
- An application suite consists of multiple applications bundled together. They usually have related functions, features and user interfaces, and may be able to interact with each other, e.g. open each other’s files. Business applications often come in suites, e.g. Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org and iWork, which bundle together a word processor, a spreadsheet, etc.; but suites exist for other purposes, e.g. graphics or music.
- Enterprise software addresses the needs of organization processes and data flow, often in a large distributed environment. (Examples include financial systems, customer relationship management (CRM) systems and supply-chain management software). Departmental Software is a sub-type of enterprise software with a focus on smaller organizations or groups within a large organization. Examples include travel expense management and IT Helpdesk)
- Enterprise infrastructure software provides common capabilities needed to support enterprise software systems. (Examples include databases, email servers, and systems for managing networks and security.)
- Information worker software addresses the needs of individuals to create and manage information, often for individual projects within a department, in contrast to enterprise management. Examples include time management, resource management, documentation tools, analytical, and collaborative. Word processors, spreadsheets, email and blog clients, personal information system, and individual media editors may aid in multiple information worker tasks.
- Content access software is software used primarily to access content without editing, but may include software that allows for content editing. Such software addresses the needs of individuals and groups to consume digital entertainment and published digital content. (Examples include media players, web browsers, and help browsers.)
- Educational software is related to content access software, but has the content and/or features adapted for use in by educators or students. For example, it may deliver evaluations (tests), track progress through material, or include collaborative capabilities.
- Simulation software simulates physical or abstract systems for either research, training or entertainment purposes.
- Media development software addresses the needs of individuals who generate print and electronic media for others to consume, most often in a commercial or educational setting. This includes graphic-art software, desktop publishing software, multimedia development software, HTML editors, digital-animation editors, digital audio and video composition, and many others.
- Product engineering software is used in developing hardware and software products. This includes computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided engineering (CAE), computer language editing and compiling tools, integrated development environments, and application programmer interfaces.
Applications can also be classified by computing platform such as a particular operating system, delivery network such as in cloud computing and Web 2.0 applications, or delivery devices such as mobile apps for mobile devices.
The operating system itself can be considered application software when performing simple calculating, measuring, rendering, and word processing tasks not used to control hardware via command-line interface or graphical user interface. This does not include application software bundled within operating systems such as a software calculator or text editor.
Mobile applications, also called mobile apps, are software applications, usually designed to run on smartphones and tablet computers. They are available through application distribution platforms which are typically operated by the owner of the mobile operating system, such as the Apple App Store, Android Market, and BlackBerry App World. Some apps are free, and others have a price. Usually they are downloaded from the platform to a target device such as an iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android phone, but sometimes they can be downloaded to less mobile computers such as a laptops or desktops. For apps with a price, generally a percentage, 20-30%, goes to the distribution provider (such as iTunes), and the rest goes to the producer of the app.
The term “app” has become popular, and in 2010 was listed as “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society
Mobile apps were originally intended for productivity: email, calendar and contact databases, but public demand caused rapid expansion into other areas such as mobile games, factory automation, GPS and location-based services, banking, order-tracking, and ticket purchases. This in turn created a large subculture of different online magazines to review these new mobile applications.This was due to the large amount of apps in the apps store which made internal navigation more difficult.
Apple App Store
The Apple App Store opened on July 10, 2008, and as of January 2011, reported over 10 billion downloads. As of June 6, 2011, there are 425,000 third-party apps available, which are downloaded by 200 million iOS users.
Apps for the BlackBerry mobile devices are available through the BlackBerry App World application distribution service. It opened in April 2009, and as of February 2011 was claiming the largest revenue per app, $9,166.67 compared to $6,480.00 at the Apple App Store and $1,200 in the Android market. In July 2011, it was reporting 3 million downloads per day, and one billion total downloads.
The Android Market is an international online software store developed by Google for Android devices. It was opened in October 2008. In May 2011, Google announced that there are 200,000 available apps, with 10 billion apps downloaded and installed as of December 2011.
Windows Phone Marketplace
The Windows Phone Marketplace is a service by Microsoft for its Windows Phone 7 platform, which was launched in October 2010. As of October 2011, it has 34,000 apps available.
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