Why Apple’s App Store Is So Important
Article in the New York Times helped solidify a thought rolling around in my head over the past few weeks.
Google envisions a future where people increasingly spend more time in the browser. They’re confident enough of this to propose a browser based operating system. But one big hurdle from an economic standpoint is getting people to pay for services (web apps) running in a web browser. There’s a solid, general perception among web users that most things on the web (specifically, running in a browser) should be free, which leaves many web-based companies with only advertising to turn to. Not bad from Google’s standpoint, but not ideal for everyone else (think newspapers).
But then there’s Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch app store, which could be an end-run around the browser. For the end user, buying apps is as easy and painless as downloading a song from iTunes – far easier than a desktop app or signing up for a new web based service (yet another login and pass, etc). But in the bigger view, Apple has returned some focus to apps, and decreased the importance of the web browser.
I don’t disagree with the concept that users will increasingly spend more time online. But I believe it’s open to debate whether this will occur in a browser. We may go through a transition phase where we instead access the web in “dumb web apps” like the iPhone’s. The main reason? Economics. People are paying for these apps, and companies follow the dollars. Instead of battling the “everything in a browser is free” mentality, move to the iPhone alternative.
Example: I wouldn’t pay a dime to play Bejeweled 2 online. But paying $2.99 to play it on the iPhone seems reasonable. That reality-distortion is illogical, but it’s here right now, and a very big deal.
We currently have newspapers threatening to move their websites behind a pay wall. Well, another possible road to success would be to “retreat” behind a paid iPhone app and charge a subscription fee. That would be embracing the future – at least Apple’s version. And it’s going to be interesting to see where Apple’s vision of the future overlaps or diverges with Google’s.