Profiling Apple Apps Store (Part I): The Game changer
Did Apple anticipate the kind of response that Apps store has received when it conceived the store? (Dont think so!).Not only has it helped the device sales,it also has established a new paradigm for the smartphone industry. Here’s profiling the Apps store.
Apple changed the view of what you can do with that small phone in your back pocket. Applications make the smartphone trend a revolutionary trend — one we haven’t seen in consumer technology for many years. The advent of the App Store and the iPhone is often compared to AOL’s pioneering role in driving broad-based consumer adoption of the Internet in the 1990s. The game that Apple is playing is to become the Microsoft of the smartphone market.
Thanks in large part to the iPhone, introduced in 2007, and the App Store, which opened its doors last year, smartphones have become the Swiss Army knives of the digital age. They provide a staggering arsenal of functions and tools at the swipe of a finger: e-mail and text messaging, video and photography, maps and turn-by-turn navigation, media and books, music and games, mobile shopping, and even wireless keys that remotely unlock cars. The popularity of Apple’s app model has reached a fever pitch. Tens of thousands of independent developers are clamoring to write programs for it, and the App Store’s virtual shelves are stocked with more than 100,000 applications. Apple recently said that consumers had downloaded more than two billion applications from its store. Major players like Research in Motion, Palm, Google and Microsoft have taken note and scrambling to replicate the App Store frenzy. App fever has even prompted cities like New York and San Francisco to open reservoirs of city data to the public to spur software developers to create hyperlocal applications for computers and phones.
There’s never been anything like this experience for mobile software. This is the future of digital distribution for software, games, entertainment, all kinds of content. As the App Store evolves from a kitschy catalog of novelty applications into what analysts and aficionados describe as a platform that is rapidly transforming mobile computing and telephony, it is changing the goals and testing the patience of developers, bolstering sales of the Apple mother-ships the applications ride upon — the iPhone and iPod Touch — and causing Apple’s competitors to overhaul their product lines and business models. It even threatens to open chinks in Apple’s own corporate armor.
APPLE cloaks most of its inner workings in a shroud of secrecy — a tactic that has helped preserve the company’s mystique and generate intense interest in its product rollouts. But the App Store relies on vast cadres of outside developers to populate its virtual shelves with products, leaving Apple in the unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable position of having to collaborate with folks who haven’t drunk the company’s corporate Kool-Aid. This has led Apple to be deeply supportive of developers once shunned by big telecommunications companies, while also frustrating many of them more recently with what developers see as the company’s inscrutable and arbitrary process for accepting programs into the App Store.
Gone are the days when mobile developers had to negotiate with major telecommunications companies if they had any hopes of publishing their applications on a mobile phone. It took six to nine months to build a relationship with a carrier, maybe a quarter-million to get the infrastructure built, and the company took 50 percent or more from each dollar. Apple has helped create a much healthier middle class of developers and expanded the pie for everyone. Apple pockets 30 percent of the revenue earned by any App Store program, with developers keeping the balance. Apple receives more than 10,000 application submissions each week. Most become available in the App Store within two weeks (creating yet another problem: the difficulty consumers have in efficiently and effectively trolling through 100,000 apps to find hidden gems they hadn’t known about).
Although barriers to entry for software developers have dropped considerably, there are some concerns and discrepancies that developers voice.Developers now cite instances in which applications have been held in approval limbo, neither accepted nor rejected for months. And as bigger companies begin churning out programs, the smaller, garage-size outfits worry that they will be squeezed out. Developers review these processes as navigating opaque hurdles.
Some Apple developers are willing to go to greater lengths — underground — to avoid dealing with Apple’s policies and to get their software out quickly and on their own terms. To do that, they create programs for “jailbroken” iPhones and iPod Touches. Such devices are modified to allow anyone to upload a program onto them, which Apple says is illegal.
It’s unclear how concerned Apple is about some of the tensions swirling around the App Store. The company’s App Store policies have faced criticism — and even prompted a Federal Communications Commission investigation of Apple’s decision to reject an iPhone application developed by Google, which is still under way. Critics say they wonder whether the company can be trusted to maintain a fair marketplace, especially when developers release products that could compete with Apple’s current or future line of products.