The companies appear to be responding to Apple, which announced this morning that its iPhone App Store, now only one year old, has surpassed 1.5 billion downloads and is serving 65,000 applications.
“The App Store is like nothing the industry has ever seen before in both scale and quality,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a press release. “With 1.5 billion apps downloaded, it is going to be very hard for others to catch up.”
Though press releases are inherently boastful, Jobs is correct that Apple is well ahead of its competitors in the mobile software space. The company launched its application store in July 2008 with the release of the iPhone 3G. The App Store’s consumer friendly interface, which makes purchasing and downloading applications as easy as downloading songs in the iTunes Store, is benefiting software developers, some of whom have become rich thanks to explosive sales of their apps.
I can almost hear Steve Jobs cackle in his private office, realizing how badly the MNOs and MVNOs have missed the mark.
It’s because they all assume that the iPhone is a phenomenal success because of the App Store, when the reality is that the iPhone has succeeded despite the App Store.
And of course Steve Jobs continuing to remind the fellows at Verizon about the App Store completely diverts their attention from what made the iPhone a successful platform: usability, usability, usability.
What’s particularly amazing to me is that most application stores are not useable in the least. Apple’s App Store famously requires an editorial review before an application can be posted, which has resulted in rejected applications because of on-line content. They demand 30% for distribution. And there is the famous “drive to 0” in the price point, combined with top sellers being fart applications and things like “Pocket God” (great game, but not an intellectually expansive selection) which have prevented more expensive and interesting vertical market applications from appearing. And the on-phone App Store experience is, at best, useable: if you know the name of the application you’re looking for you can search for it, but the small screen means you’ll only see 7 applications out of 65,000 at a time.
So now Verizon is going to (a) piss off the developers who are used to being able to control the relationship with their clients (a valid criticism of the App Store: I cannot ship a demo which requires registration), (b) make it harder for developers to push their product (another criticism, given that in order for a user to by my iPhone app I have to pass control to Apple, losing control of the experience and potentially handing a sale to a competitor), and (c) get charged 30% for the privilege–and for what?
The iPhone App Store succeeds because the iPhone is succeeding–and the iPhone’s initial launch was a successful launch despite the App Store, which didn’t even exist during the first year of the iPhone.