Everyone knows how bad mobile app discovery is. I recently saw a group of 20-30 techies and mobile bloggers talk for days about something they wanted in a mobile app before any of them discovered just the app that they were all looking for. When one of them suggested I download it, it took me a while to find it, even with the name in hand. See here and here for just a few of the many articles talking about app discovery recently.
But Microsoft is researching a new approach to app discovery that will give a huge boost to app discovery on the Windows Phone ecosystem. The idea is location-based app discovery.
Microsoft's newly-published patent application lays out some of the details. Apps in their application store have the option of being tagged with specific locations that they relate to. App locations might be tagged by the developers, or might be discovered automatically. Then, when a user looks for local apps on their phone, they're offered instantly all the apps that relate to their current location.
This means that in just a few clicks, as you're waiting for your taxicab at the airport of a new city, you can install apps that will give you the sites, restaurants, or anything else you need for the new city.
There have been some apps that have tried this in a rudimentary fashion, like AppMap and AppHere. But having it as part of the ecosystem is the key to its really having impact on app discovery.
AND IT GETS BETTER: Microsoft is also looking at how these apps can be recommended automatically when a phone user enters a new area, even if they don't search for new apps. In Microsoft's technique, location-oriented apps have associated "GeoFences," or virtual lines on a map that show the areas where the apps are relevant. When the phone enters the GeoFence of a new app, the app discovery engine can pop up a recommendation for the app right away.
This means that if you find yourself in a new section of town, you can instantly be given the apps that will help you find what you need in that new area. What works for new countries or new cities can also work for new neighborhoods. And it can all work automatically.
Of course, it would help if the system also knows what sorts of apps you want recommended. On going to a new city, you might want apps for vegetarian food & jazz clubs and your friend might want apps for burger joints & sleazy bars. This can be taken care of by a simple preferences system.
But whatever you want, having it pushed to you when you enter a new area will definitely up the odds that you'll find the apps you want on your next trip or drive around town.
Now we just have to wait for Microsoft, or others, to bring this idea to market....