App Stores: The End of Computing as We Know It

Sep 18 2011

It all started July 10th, 2008 when Apple launched the App Store for iOS.

In a lot of ways, this was a good thing for end users and developers. It gave users the ability to easily access, locate, and download applications that did not come natively on their phone (Facebook, Twitter, etc). For developers, it was an easy way to get applications in front of a wide audience since Apple was handling the (or forcing their) distribution.

For the most part, the iOS App Store was a great success! However, it wasn’t long before we began hearing of the problems some were facing with getting their product on to the App Store, with Apple controlling all of the approval process, as well as requiring developers to provide apps within their constructs as defined by their Terms and Conditions. It also didn’t help any of us that AT&T was pulling some of the strings with regard to phone specific apps, or 3G download size and usage limitations.

A community of individuals decided that they wanted to find a way to circumvent Apple’s tight control over app distribution, and to Apple’s dismay, Cydia was born. Cydia being the ‘Jailbroken’ App store. Cydia offered the first way for people to distribute their apps without requiring approval from Apple.

On January 6th, 2011 Apple launched the Mac App Store. The Mac App Store, unlike the iOS app store, was more of an add-on to Apple’s OS X 10.6.6+ and is more of a secondary channel to acquiring applications (As we can still download [most of] our apps from websites in the traditional way).

To me, the mere mention of an App store for the desktop sounded very frightening and chilling. The very first thought I had been “The need to ‘jailbreak’ OS X is coming.” A scary thought indeed.

With the overwhelming ‘success’ that Apple has seen with its App stores, it’s not surprising that it would catch the eyes and ears of other hardware and software companies. In fact, many other companies have created App stores for their mobile offerings, but until recently, Apple had the only desktop OS App Store.

Microsoft Windows 8 is coming, and whether or not you enjoy the ‘Metro-Style’ tiles or not is really not the important piece of Microsoft’s latest OS offering. When I was hearing all the hype about Windows 8, only one piece of information really stuck out to me: Windows Store. Windows Store is Microsoft’s version of the Mac App Store.

With the two major closed source operating system developers in the world (Microsoft and Apple) having their own App Stores, what is the long-term strategy by either company. My fear is that their both quite similar actually. Total control over all application distribution, and a piece of all profits made through their proprietary distribution networks.

Take a moment to reflect on this. That means that whether you’re a fan of Apple or Microsoft, you will have to sign your allegiance to one and perhaps both. That means, Microsoft and/or Apple will dictate which apps you may run on your hardware. You will be giving all kinds of personal, private, sensitive information to one or both companies regularly. App usage, download preference, language, frequency of purchases, and that’s just the surface. What if we were to throw some location information in there too perhaps. Apple already requires, and Microsoft will probably follow suit, a one-click purchase and credit card on file.

So is it crazy to believe that the days of downloading and installing apps from websites, optical disks, thumb-drives and other media is going to slowly fade? Is it so hard to believe that one day we’ll have to ‘Jailbreak’ our desktop operating systems to install applications either disapproved or unapproved by Apple or Microsoft? Both companies have an insanely large amount to gain from such ideas (30% off the top as a small example).

I was generally concerned when Apple first made mention of a Mac App Store, and now more frightened now that Microsoft is planning to launch Windows Store. Just how many more OS versions do we have left before we legitimately have to break our operating system from Apple’s and Microsoft’s tight clutches? I’d venture to say, probably just a few.

Perhaps The Simpsons weren’t too far off with their Halloween special with iPods whipping their human slaves after all… At least it looks like Cydia for Mac OS X isn’t too far away, so hopefully when we have to ‘Jailbreak’ our desktop, we’ll have a friend that understands our pain.

Comments Off on App Stores: The End of Computing as We Know It

Comments are closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: