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A few weeks ago, Lego made their free Digital Designer software available to the public. It’s a kickass little 3D program that allows you to build virtual Lego models, share them online, and—this is the really cool part—order the physical Lego bricks that your creation would require to build in the real world. It’s a fantastic idea, but it got me thinking. With the tremendous success of the iTunes Music Store, whose wares are accessible only through iTunes (as opposed to a web browser), and the recent release of Linotype’s FontExplorer X, whose functionality is nearly identical, will more online merchants be persuaded to go a similar route?

I have a number of problems with the iTMS’s bottom line-focused refusal to look before it leapt (which I’ll take the time to document on some other rainy day), but this one hadn’t occurred to me before now. Admittedly, copycats have been surprisingly slow to emerge, but with iTMS’s unparalleled success, and all the great press FontExplorer X is getting, I wonder if this trend won’t catch on. Imagine having to download a custom application for every online store you want to do business with, increasing your hard drive’s number of web apps exponentially. How irritating would that be?