Apple’s App Store for iPhone has revolutionized software distribution for mobile devices. Combining ease of use for end users and simple monetization options for software developers, the App Store has proved to be a great success. But the store has also been criticized by many because of the way it forces iPhone owners into using one place to find all their apps, as well as the fact that Apple has blocked applications which might compete with its own software.
So what is Apple planning for the App Store? In this post, Tom and Jon present wildly opposing views of the future of Apple’s App Store.
Tom: Yes, Apple will roll out that App Store on Macs
The success of the App Store in changing the world of software cannot be underrated. Small applications are cool, desirable and popular. The other key mobile platforms have followed suit, launching their own app stores. And all this despite the fact that software distribution on the iPhone is actually a much tighter-controlled system than anything we’ve ever seen.
My prediction is that within four years, software distribution for Mac desktops and notebooks will occur solely through the App Store. The App Store will be relatively closed (programs will need approval from Apple just like now), and while many developers will be annoyed at Apple’s move, they will finally be forced to embrace it as the only method for getting their software installed on your Mac.
Why would Apple do this? The way I see it, they have little choice. It’s a natural next step from their current position and it will maintain their control of the Mac OS platform. Additionally, controlling the distribution of software clearly generates a massive revenue stream for Apple. I see this move as utterly inevitable, and working for a software download site, I’m looking forward to the challenges this will present!
Jon: No, Rolling out the App Store to other platforms is not inevitable
In short, rolling out the App Store to bigger devices would be costly, dangerous for the cool Apple brand, and put profits above good design.
The iPhone App Store is so successful because it’s a small device, and the well designed program makes downloading and buying applications really easy. Doing so in Safari would have been a pain. Without the constraints of a small mobile screen, the App Store is less necessary. Before the App Store, there was no intuitive software distribution for mobile applications. But on Macs (and Windows PCs), this isn’t an issue. Downloading applications is already easy.
Another issue is Apple approving everything. The iPhone is popular and has tons of applications, but that number will be dwarfed by software for the Macs. There must be a point at which the overheads required to run the App Store undermine any desire for a closed system. After all, it’s not like the current system is broken, and it’s hardware where Apple make the vast majority of their money.
They might introduce an App Store, but to make it closed would really hamper people’s use and enjoyment of their Macs. Would they really stop you downloading programs through your browser? High-end users would hate this, and Apple’s cool quotient comes in part from these users.
The last reason is that the App Store is as much a part of the iPhone experience as iTunes is part of the iPod experience. The software is an integral part of the device, and makes it complete. The Mac has OSX, which alongside the beautiful hardware makes the Mac experience loved by its users. A closed App store wouldn’t improve the OSX experience, and all Apple products are designed primarily around great user experience (from which flows their huge profits).
I can’t see the iPhone App Store model as the inevitable future for everything. It’s still relatively new, and has also been coming under sustained criticism which may even prompt Apple to open it up a little.
What do you think?