Mar 23, 2015 · 2 minutes

Critics have argued for years that people are sick of software. The New York Times claimed in 2013 that people suffer from app burnout. More recently, Fortune used signs that people aren’t downloading many apps to argue that hoping to become a millionaire by releasing a mobile software product is a lot like believing in the Tooth Fairy.

Some data supports that argument. Onavo said in 2013 that most applications will never be downloaded by more than a few people. ComScore has said the average consumer doesn’t download even a single app in an average month. But other data, most notably from Yahoo’s Flurry analytics service, shows that, as a whole, people are installing new apps on their smartphones as often as they were a few years ago.

So are people really burned out on software? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. But it is clear that app stores have become overcrowded, and having too many apps to choose from can be even worse than having too few, resulting in a paralysis of choice. It’s the digital equivalent to the jam problem: when people are presented with too many choices, they’ll often elect not to choose anything at all. Anyone who has felt overwhelmed in the toothpaste aisle, or the library, or the seemingly-never-ending bevy of videos available on Netflix knows that sometimes too many choices is a bad thing.

Of course, there aren’t just a few dozen apps available — there are millions of them. Consumers haven’t grown tired of downloading new software; they’re simply bombarded with so many choices that browsing an app store can be overwhelming. The same phenomenon may be occurring to a lesser extent on consumers' own devices – once they reach a certain threshold of installed apps, it can be overwhelming to navigate and thus installing additional apps holds less and less appeal.

Companies encourage people to download more apps by narrowing down some of those choices. Every major app store has a section where some apps are featured. And if Amazon introduces a service that will reportedly allow its customers to temporarily install paid apps without having to actually pay for them, it will be easier to test driver new software with less commitment.

Amazon isn’t the only company doing this. Apple partners with a new developer each week to make an otherwise-paid app available for free. It’s not hard to see why they do this: people can’t resist sales. That’s why department stores have clearance events and grocers advertise weekly deals. Why not apply the same principle to apps?

It’s important for these platform companies to combat the idea that people aren’t interested in software because they want to control how everyone accesses “content.” Apps aren’t that much different from books, movies, or films, and they’re actually one of the few things manufacturers can use to differentiate their products from the competition’s. More people downloading apps from the App Store (or the Appstore) means closer connections to Apple’s or Amazon’s ecosystem, which leads to more loyal customers.

Besides, people aren’t sick of software. They just have far too many options to choose from. Removing some of those choices, or at least using basic psychology to make some of them more appealing than others, could encourage software downloads. Then maybe tech writers will finally stop writing eulogies for mobile applications.