More and more of the analysts and commentators are starting to
realize predict that the coming iPhone Application Store will be as revolutionary for third-party software sales as the iPhone has been for smartphones.
Despite the analysts’ bad track record for mobile market predictions in general, I think they’re right about this one. There will be a huge advantage to having the App Store on the device, supported by the maker of the device and the OS.
Microsoft and Palm have been missing this for years. They’ve relied completely on third-party stores. There’s been no major advertising of the availability of software for Palm or Windows Mobile phones. There’s been very little promotional activity, and not much effort to raise users’ awareness of the fact that they can buy software.
Apple’s already changed this, and the store’s still 3 weeks away. Friends and relatives who have had only the vaguest idea what we do are asking whether our software will run on the iPhone. Articles about third-party software for the iPhone turn up regularly in my tech and business news feeds. There’s a link to App Store info on the front page of iphone.com. Major companies, including eBay, Electronic Arts, and Sega, have already announced and demonstrated their iPhone apps.
It’s going to be a whole new world for mobile software developers. Our biggest problem has always been that people just don’t know they can add software to their PDAs and smartphones. I’m convinced that Apple will solve this for us.
I know this does’t mean that our jobs will suddenly get easy – they won’t. There will be a lot more competition. It’s a very new market for us. And there are a huge number of open issues about the App Store, beginning with whether our apps will even get into it. Trial versions, upgrades, user info for support: it’s pretty clear that Apple hasn’t given any of these much time yet.
But I’m still optimistic that Apple’s monopoly on third-party distribution will be better for developers than the current mobile software distribution oligopoly. No matter how much I like some of the distributors, they’re not doing, and never have done, what the mobile market needs. And neither have the mobile hardware and operating system OEMs. Apple may end up helping them all as well – just raising user awareness of the availability of add-on software might improve software sales on other mobile platforms as well. But I’d bet that the distributors who haven’t already thrown in the towel are pretty nervous right now. Apple’s marketing, combined with the fact that they’re behind the software store, the OS and the hardware, is going to be very powerful.
I know there’s a lot of disagreement among developers about this, and I admit I’m uncomfortable with the idea that without Apple’s approval, we literally won’t be able to sell software for the iPhone. But the mobile software market badly needs a big change. I don’t know where we’ll be a year from now, but I’m pretty sure it will be a very different place. I’m all in favor of that.
And here are a few articles of the articles from this morning and last week: