The iPhone App Store – Apple’s true breakthrough

You could have had a tough time in the 90’s if you were an independent software developer for Nokia or Ericsson smart phones.

Little was known about creating applications for GEOS and EPOC (latterly Symbian) and then to make any decent sales the company had to be in the application book that came with the handset.

Nokia tried to expand this with their various partner programmes but the resulting directories unfortunately had little impact despite their best efforts.

Handango stepped into the breach with a market place for small software vendors that at least tries to give vendors an easy to use shop front.

Unfortunately users have to consciously make the effort to search for an application, or rely on word of mouth, leaving many innovative developers without a market.

Then along came the iPhone App store. With many millions of applications sold over the last two months, Apple has single handed redefined how a mobile interface can engage users to buy applications. A swipe and a touch Is all that is needed to find the latest next best thing.

Application snacking is the new game in town. Consumers no longer have to consciously use their PC’s or dig deep into their smart phone menus.

Stumbling over software written by new developers has established a new democracy in the market where innovation is lauded.

Apple unquestionably wipes away Nokia’s and Microsoft’s on device efforts, and now they and Google are running scared.

Caught off guard by Apple’s app store success, Google and Microsoft have to think fast about their response.

Android Market, an “open content distribution system” is Google’s answer. From the screenshots it appears to be an almost direct copy of Apple’s App Store; though by calling it a market Android are claiming their service to be more open, which could mean either a wider range of content or buggier and inappropriate. Eventual users will have to wait and see.

Microsoft has been far slower off the mark having recently advertised for a Skymarket product manager, Microsoft’s Store/Market competitor. Perhaps they should change the name to App Mall.

Whatever their intention Microsoft have at least got a mass of programs that theoretically could be added into their shop. Though if Windows Mobile 7 is anything like the upgrade from XP to Vista there could be a lot of broken apps being downloaded in the first few months.

Then what of Nokia? They will be working on their own variant, which will no doubt be part of Ovi. I assume that when an S60 Touch handset is launched that will be the time Nokia announces their new shop front. Though Nokia may delay any launch until after they have absorbed Symbian.

The group that has been left in the lurch are the operators. Having dismissed and belittled software developers for years, they are now seeing a large potential revenue source disappearing into other peoples pockets. What a shame!