Tag Archives: App Store

Scoble is right about iPhone users. But the game isn’t over yet

Robert Scoble has a post up about why Apple’s key advantage is the breadth of the app store. And he’s right – but the game isn’t over yet.

85,000 is the headline figure, and what it allows Apple to leverage is a classic “long tail of usefulness”. For me, 99.99% of those applications are (to me) useless crap that would have no bearing on whether I stick with iPhone. Unfortunately for everyone else, that still leaves 8 or 9 apps that act like heavy anchors, dragging me back to Apple’s platform.

But suppose Nokia, Android, or whoever got the developers of those apps to port them to their platform? Great! They’ve won me as a customer. But the problem is that this is a long tail: maybe four or five of those would be common ones, but three or four would be ones which only me and a relatively few other people wanted. So the actual base of applications that are “must haves” would be much wider, in the low thousands at a guess. That’s a long way from Robert’s claim that you need all 85,000, but it’s still a pretty daunting number.

And the experience of Apple in the 90′s, when the Mac was on the back foot, proves that it’s no good having “equivalent” applications – once people get used to having app X, they want app X, not app Y which does pretty much the same thing.

However, there’s a catch: it’s worth remembering that most people haven’t bought smart phones yet. Smartphone penetration remains comparatively tiny, and in the biggest growth markets for phones (Africa, BRIC) it’s still dirt-cheap simple phones which are driving the growth.

And people are used to buying phones on hardware features: the best camera, for example, is a big influence. That’s why Apple has been advertising with “there’s an app for that” – raising a flag for the one big advantage they have. But until you actually use a phone which is infinitely malleable via applications, it’s hard to appreciate why it’s so cool. So it’s not a totally easy sell.

(As an aside, this is the reason why the iPod Touch is so important: it’s a “gateway drug” for the app store. You might not buy an Apple phone, but you might replace your old iPod with the touch… and then find that you love the apps. At which point, you’ll buy an iPhone next time.)

So the game isn’t over yet, and there’s plenty still to play for. But Apple has a head-start, and if I was a betting man, I’d place my money on the iPhone. Essentially, it’s Apple’s lead to throw away – but, as others will no doubt point out, Apple has thrown away leads before.

(Update: John Gruber’s written an interesting response to this, and I’ve written a further response posing what I think is an interesting question: What happens when there aren’t 100,000 apps on the store, but one million?)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

If Apple is going to control the iPhone app channel, it needs to do it properly

Fraser Speirs – App Store Review is broken.

"The problem that I and others are having right now is that it doesn’t scale. Apple requires that every single update to every app go through the same vetting process (although who knows exactly what this involves?). I submitted Exposure 1.0.1 to the App Store last Friday and, five days later, one version is “In Review”. The other is still, mysteriously, “waiting for upload”, even though I already did.

If Apple can’t guarantee a maximum 24 hour review process, they should drop it. What would happen if I was trying to correct a data loss or security bug, and the update sits in App Store limbo for five or ten days? Fortunately I’m not facing that situation, but these are fixes for painful crashing bugs that are really affecting users of Exposure. All the while, users continue to comment negatively on these already-fixed-but-not-released bugs in Exposure’s reviews on iTunes. Without demos, those reviews are an app’s lifeblood."

Fraser is completely right, of course. If Apple is assuming the responsibility of ensuring that each and every application meets some nebulous "quality" threshold, it has a duty to both consumers and developers to do things promptly. If a developer can’t release bug-fixes in a timely manner because Apple can’t check code, the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

I get the feeling that Apple is only now learning a set of lessons. How to handle an online software distribution channel, something that it appears to have assumed would be a piece of cake after its experience with music and video. And how to create and manage enterprise-level messaging infrastructure ("Exchange for the rest of us").

Unfortunately, it’s learning those lessons in public, and taking the knocks to its reputation as it goes.