Strong opinions, weakly held

The future of app stores

Stephen O’Grady argues that app stores (of which the iPhone App Store is an example) are going to continue to be a big deal. I’m inclined to agree, and I love his example of the WordPress plugin directory.

I’m also going to quote from one of his sources, Farhad Manjoo’s negative article on app stores to make a slightly different point:

That’s a miscalculation, because the App Store’s true rival isn’t a competing app marketplace. Rather, it’s the open, developer-friendly Web. When Apple rejected Google Latitude, the search company’s nearby-friend-mapping program, developers created a nearly identical version that works perfectly on the iPhone’s Web browser. Google looks to be doing something similar with Voice, another app that Apple barred from its store. Last fall, Joe Hewitt, the Facebook developer who created the social network’s iPhone app, quit developing for Apple in protest of the company’s policies. Where did he go? Back to writing mobile apps for Web browsers.

The question I’d ask is, how is this a loss for Apple? Web browsers are becoming increasingly powerful platforms for applications. It would be a problem for Apple if these companies were going off and building Android apps, but if they’re writing apps that still run well on an iPhone, then Apple is still a beneficiary of their work.


  1. Apple benefits much more when someone writes an app that only works on the iPhone. Every app written for the web is one more app that also works on Android phones, chipping away at Apple’s advantage. Microsoft faces exactly the same problem on the desktop.

  2. Having tried to use an Android phone to access supposedly webkit-friendly mobile sites, I’d have to disagree. No-one tests on things that aren’t iPhones (how many people have 2 phones? You can’t get a non-contract android device. Well, you can this week, I guess. For $500). I’ve been bitten by user-agent sniffers who refuse to believe it’s a capable device, sites that load and then don’t work, unreliable sites and, even in the best case, the Android browser is a stuttery pain compared to the browser on the 3G, let alone the 3GS.

    The only mobile sites I’ve used from my Hero that even remotely compare to the slickness of native apps were written by Google.

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