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How Apple could offer “digital valet” service

by Alex in | |

I spend a lot of time tweaking my systems. And by a lot, I mean….a lot. Between my Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPad and our two home media servers, I figure that I’m upgrading something every week. Then there’s my online system: the widgets I install on my WordPress blog, the apps I install on Facebook, all the other social networks and web services I need to keep up-to-date and in sync. And all the new stuff I try in the hope that it will somehow make me happier, smarter and taller (it often does). Including all my devices and all the online services I sign up for, I figure I try well over 1,000 different kinds of software each year. (I’d love to keep track of the exact number, of course….can anyone recommend a piece of software that will do that for me? I am of course happy to try several options.)

But I’m not complaining. It’s not as if all this system optimization gets in the way of my work. On the contrary, my work is what I do so that I have some professional justification for trying out every new piece of software or social network that comes along. It’s my dearest hope that someday I’ll cut out the middleman and just spend all my time optimizing my various systems. I just haven’t been able to think of how that could actually provide an income.

Until know. Here’s my new aspirational career: digital valet. I’ll create an installation profile for each of my various devices, and then people can subscribe to my service in order to get the same set of applications and configurations installed on theirs.

Of course, the platform that would make it possible for me to do that would support lots of other digital profiles, too. Imagine if — instead of going to the app store — you could go to the profile store and buy (or subscribe to) all the software choices of someone who has done the filtering and deciding for you. Someone with a similar set of needs, and a comparable tolerance for technical complexity (or lack thereof).

The business model is baked in: just like Apple, you’d keep a cut off the software you recommend. In fact, Apple is in the ideal position to sell software profiles as a service. They’ve already got app stores set up for the iPad, iPhone, and now the Mac itself: why not let me create sets of apps on each platform, and give me a small portion of the profits from people who buy the Alex Digital Life Enhancement Package? And while they’re at it, how about giving a bulk discount to people who buy the whole package? Google could do the same thing with the Chrome OS and Android.

Better yet, let me build sets of apps that are organized by need or field, and include recommendations for multiple devices. For example, an academic-oriented package might include Evernote (for all my devices), Endnote (for my Mac), Papers (for iPad and Mac), GoodReader (for my iPad) and (gotta say it) the Microsoft Office suite. A family-oriented package could include KidPix (for the Mac), Brushes (for iPad), Angry Birds (for iPhone/iPad) etc.

If you’re reading this, you may wonder why anyone would let someone else choose all their software for them. But you’re reading a geeky blog like mine because you’re actually interested in thinking about what’s on your computer. Lots and lots of people aren’t. They want their computer to work, and they want it to do stuff that will be fun and useful, and they don’t necessarily want to figure out what that is.

To you — all those folks who want a tricked-out computer  without the 1,000-new-apps-a-year lifestyle — I offer myself as your would-be digital valet. Let me try those 1,000 apps a year for you. Let me make your computer rock out. And let Apple — please, please Apple! — make it all possible.

First posted on February 4,2011

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