App Store: the real key to the iPhone’s success
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
Ju;y 22-28, 2008 issue #978
High Tech Office column
The July 11 release of the
updated iPhone — and its official release in Canada – got news coverage
for lineups, complaints about Rogers’ Canadian plans and more. But the
story with the biggest long-term effect got shuffled into the
Sure, the new iPhone 3G connects to higher speed
mobile networks. And it’s available in more countries. And, unlike
their U.S.-counterparts, Canadian customers can’t buy an unlimited data
plan. But this isn’t the first technology item that’s faster than last
year’s model. And it’s not news that mobile data users in Canada pay
more than in other countries.
And even Rogers’ iPhone debut
didn’t mean that the phones weren’t available locally before July 11.
Approximately 30% of U.S. iPhones never connected to AT&T’s mobile
network; many of these “unlocked” iPhones ended up in Canada.
with announcing the second generation iPhone, though, Apple also opened
the platform to software developers. Previously, like most mobile
devices, the iPhone came with a fixed set of applications.
with the software development kit, Apple promised a centralized
distribution method. Owners of iPhones (and the similar, but phone-less
iPod iTouch media players) would be given access to a new App Store,
using the same iTunes software and iTunes music store that they already
used. Software developers could set pricing for their applications
(including offering them for free), with Apple taking a relatively
reasonable 30% cut for promotion and distribution.
the new generation iPhones, Apple released a firmware update letting
previously sold iPhones and iPod iTouch players access the App Store.
And while one million iPhone 3Gs were sold worldwide in the first
weekend (it took 74 days to sell the first million iPhones), 10 million
applications were downloaded from the App Store.
download applications using iTunes on their computer (later synching it
to their iPhone or iTouch) or directly on their phone when it is online.
it opened, there were 552 applications available for downloading. That
figure had risen to more than 800 by the following Monday: 22%
available for free, with free applications accounting for over half of
the downloads. On the first weekend, the top five applications were
Apple’s Remote, enabling an iPhone or iTouch to act as a wireless
remote for a computer’s music library, America Online’s AIM instant
messenger client, tools to connect to the online Facebook service and
the Pandora personalized online radio client (not available in Canada)
and the Weatherbug utility – all free.
Other applications bore prices from $1 to about $50; 90% were priced at
$10 or less.
to Apple, the top five applications sold on that first weekend were
games; games accounted for about a third of all available applications.
There was a sprinkling of more serious applications, as well, among
•free news readers from the New York Times, Mobile News Network and
•the $5 FileMagnet, for transferring and viewing files between a user’s
computer (currently Mac-only) and iPhone/iTouch;
•foreign language phrasebooks and dictionaries with prices ranging from
free to $30; and
free eReader utility tying users into the ereader.com online bookstore,
which makes the iPhone a challenge to dedicated ebook readers like
Freebies from Salesforce.com and Oracle are the first of more
business-like and even industry-specific applications to come.
of the reasons for Window’s personal computing dominance has been the
way Microsoft encouraged software developers. At the same time, the
wide-open nature of Windows has helped make it vulnerable to so-called
Many Linux distributions use “repositories”:
centralized locations where users can download software guaranteed to
work – and not infect their systems.
Apple’s new App Store may
offer Windows-like nurturing for developers and Linux-like security for
users. It could also help ensure that the iPhone becomes the dominant
mobile computing platform. •