App stores represent one of the easiest ways to purchase software today. Online vendors which let you buy and download applications (a.k.a. software programs, often offered in bite-sized or value-priced form), these retailers are accessible from virtually every form of Internet-connected device including tablet PCs, TVs and phones. Looking to do a little shopping, but not sure where to start? Following are several websites, stores and digital distribution portals that can help.
Google Play - Purchasing on an Android device? For safety's sake, you'll want to shop at Google's official retail source, formerly known as the Android Market. Purchases can be made from a Web browser or directly from your handset. Featuring more than 600,000 apps to pick from for smartphones and tablets, the service has clocked in over 20 billion downloads. With Android now the world's most widely-used smartphone operating system, high ownership numbers are leading more developers to create original software in addition to ports of programs found on other devices.
Apple App Store - Accessible directly from your iPhone, iPad or iPod device, or via iTunes on desktop computers, Apple's storefront provides the broadest software selection of any vendor. From streaming audio and video solutions to utilities, games and productivity options, over 650,000 different selections are available - including 225,000 designed specifically for the iPad alone. More than 400 million people have registered for the service, which has topped 30 billion downloads, making it a recommend place to shop - or, better yet, choose from thousands of free programs available.
Steam - Do you or your kids or grandkids like playing video games? The most trusted and widely-utilized of all gaming solutions, Steam - the brainchild of Valve, creators of the popular Half-Life and Portal series - delivers exclusive digital downloads and day-and-date launch with retail products as well. From GameStop to GameFly, GOG.com and GamersGate, numerous online retailers let you buy and stream down digital diversions on-demand. But for enthusiasts, or those seeking the most supporting features (downloadable add-ons, community options, cloud computing support, etc.), it's worth connecting to.
Mac App Store - Aims to do for Macintosh computers what its mobile counterpart does for iDevices. Though all featured choices are packaged as applications, you'll find full-fledged retail desktop utility and productivity suites here in addition to less robust solutions - including options priced to match. A handy way to purchase and download software without visiting your local electronics store, choices are available in virtually every category imaginable, and easy to grab on-demand. Don't let the name fool you: You'll find a complete selection of retail-grade products at hand.
Windows Phone Marketplace - Own a Windows Phone device? From Facebook to Skype, LinkedIn, Amazon.com and Netflix, you can pick up programs for it here. The company also offers special emphasis on Xbox Live-enabled game selections, though you'll find everything from virtual magazines to trip planners, currency converters and streaming TV options available. While the selection of software available isn't as big as on other platforms, over 100,000 apps can be download - nothing to scoff at.
AppUp - A downloadable storefront for desktop, laptop and notebook computers, Intel's AppUp platform lets you purchase and download a variety of PC software over the Internet. Options include both free and paid apps, including conversions of popular applications for other devices and platforms such as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. Covering a range of categories from education to health, fitness, travel and reference, it hopes to provide a one-stop shop for home computers akin to those found on mobile gadgets.
For app stores available on HDTVs and 3DTVs, also see: