Under The Microscope

One Little Article

I’ll try not to post links to my posts on the Inside iPhone blog here too often, but I feel it worthwhile to link to my latest piece. Entitled One Little Article, it’s a discussion on the differences between having AN App Store on the iPhone, which would be just one of several ways of getting software on the iPhone, and THE App Store, which is currently the exclusive way of getting software on the iPhone. Give One Little Article a read and post any thoughts in the comments there!

Update (August 3rd, 2018): Bitrot on the web means this article is no longer available on O’Reilly’s site. It can be found in the Internet Archive, but now, it’s also re-published below.

“An” vs. “The”. It’s one little article, but it makes a huge difference on the iPhone.

I’ve previously mentioned Rogue Amoeba’s frustrations with Apple’s developer certification process in an earlier post. The App Store has just launched, and like thousands of other developers, we’ve been unable to get any software in it thus far. While discussing the problems we’ve had with others, I came to realize that there’s an important distinction to be made here.

There’s no problem with Apple having an App Store. In fact, it’s a great idea. An App Store can be a great way for nervous users to find software. They can read reviews there and find just what they’re after. An App Store is also good for those developers who are accepted, as it will provide good publicity, providing them with the possibility of reaching millions of users. Finally, an App Store is good for Apple. It allows them to be as exclusive as they desire with what software gets promoted, all without preventing developers and users from getting any software they may want through other means.

Unfortunately, we don’t have An App Store, we have The App Store. The difference is exclusivity. With An App Store, software can be put on the iPhone through some other method. The App Store, however, is the sole way to get software on the iPhone. This leads to some major problems all around. Users who want software that Apple doesn’t approve of can’t get it, because it’s obviously not listed by Apple in the App Store. Developers who aren’t accepted into Apple’s program, for whatever reasons, can’t get on the iPhone at all and thus can’t sell to customers. Developers who are accepted are still running into immense issues with updates, bug testing, and more. Ultimately, that’s bad for Apple too, as it means those users and developers are unhappy and will aim their frustrations squarely at Apple.

Presumably, Apple has considered all this. If so, they’ve determined that they’d rather have complete control over the applications available on the iPhone than have more flexibility for developers and customers alike. I can see how this could be good for Apple itself – a dictatorship tends to serve the dictator quite well. I can’t, however, see why developers would support it, nor customers.

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