Dec 10

It’s an app-happy world

Art credit: Koka Sexton (via Flickr)

I get all wispy and nostalgic when I think about the days of the first iPhone. How innocent we were then.

When we talked about apps, we were talking about web apps. The kind we had to load up in Safari. No, developers weren’t allowed to get their greasy fingers anywhere near iPhone’s innards.

Apple tried to calm the natives by putting on a number of iPhone developer events to help them make the best web apps they could. But those apps only gave us a taste of what a real app might do.

Some say Steve Jobs only reversed himself when he realized the enormity of the potential for 3rd-party apps. Others believe opening iPhone up to apps was the plan all along, and it was simply a matter of “first things first.” iPhone needed to become a solid platform first.

Whatever, within six months of iPhone’s birth Apple welcomed developers into the tent. Six months later, the App Store was born. It soon became clear that apps were by far the biggest part of the iPhone story. Apps are what turned a communicator/iPod into a true pocket computer.

When competitors started to appear, Apple’s advantage depended on its lead in apps. Apps became a given for every platform. No competitor could seriously contend without an app store of its own.

In fact, the very word apps, a geek word turned mainstream by Apple, was instantly adopted by Apple’s competitors. It’s now as generic as a screen full of app icons arranged in a grid.

Now, as if the world of apps isn’t big enough already, the other shoe is about to drop. And this is one humongous shoe. The Mac App Store will open for business on January 6th.

You can’t help but feel this is going to be a “how did we live without this before” kind of thing. Surely it will spark another gold rush for developers. Happily for AAPL stockholders, it will also spout a new gusher of cash. Apple will now start pocketing 30% on software sales — as opposed to the 0% they’ve been taking for the last 25 years.

Given the historic success of the App Store, this development wasn’t hard to predict. Even yours truly saw it coming back in October of 2009. As the App Store does for apps and iTunes does for music, the Mac App Store will give millions of Mac people one simple place to discover great new apps, talk them up with friends and get instant gratification 24/7. While mega-apps like Adobe CS5 and Final Cut Studio may not work this way for a while (but then they may), the Mac App Store will be the Big Bang for more bite-sized apps and utilities that make the Mac a more fun and customizable place. Mac apps will suddenly be a spontaneous decision, just a click away.

The Mac App Store will be one more reason for people to be drawn to the light. Though none of us should be surprised when a certain entity announces its intention to copy the idea on the PC side.

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  • rd

    Of course SDK was planned all along.
    When ever Apple comes with a new framework,
    it first releases as private framework before
    getting feedback from outside world.

    Even Google and Palm were forced to release NDK.

    iPhone was developed in secret so how can their developers releases the SDK when even internal Apple developers didn’t get to see it.

  • ken segall

    Sometimes Steve Jobs says things like “nobody wants to watch movies on their iPod,” and then a year later iPod suddenly run movies. That’s the kind of thing he might say to mislead competitors. Call them Steve’s little white lies.

    The way Apple rejected 3rd party apps for iPhone was different. They said it was for reliability and security reasons. They couldn’t risk the system being brought down by a single app. Just Google back in time to read Steve’s comments on this topic, and how he responded to the growing criticism. Right after the iPhone intro in January 2007, Steve was clear:


    There’s a pretty good summary of what happened between the unveiling in January and WWDC in June here:


    At WWDC, Steve acknowledged that developers were clamoring to add capabilities to iPhone, and Apple wanted them to, but declared that Apple needed to keep iPhone reliable and secure. With all that in mind, Steve said, “we’ve come up with a very sweet solution.” That solution was Web 2.0 apps running on Safari.

    There’s seems to be enough evidence there to support the assertion that the decision to allow 3rd-party apps came well after iPhone’s launch.

  • The Mac App Store was my idea. ;)

  • neilw

    “With all that in mind, Steve said, “we’ve come up with a very sweet solution.” That solution was Web 2.0 apps running on Safari.”

    And everyone laughed, and then Apple released the SDK.

    Fast forward a few years, and RIM says “no, what users *really* want are web apps”, to try to work around the lack of app support for their platform. And Google comes out with an OS who’s sole purpose is to run web apps.

    2011 should be an(other) interesting year!

  • Clay Crenshaw

    I love the app store, but I was really surprised to see how badly they dropped the ball on search functionality. Only the app names appear to be indexed, so if you don’t already know the name of the app you’re looking for, it’s basically useless. A search for “freelance” gave me: “Did you mean Fireplace? Your search had no results. Try searching again.”