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Friday, August 08, 2008

App Store Hijinks

Personally I think the App Store is only just shy of completely brilliant. One of those times that philosophy that drives Apple really shines and pulls together something which quite honestly changes the conversation as well as the game.

But I did say just shy. There's some pretty glaring faults to be had here. Nothing which is odd or surprising considering what's going on - but they still exist. There's no good way to deliver trial software - which has lead several developers to start distributing "lite" and "full" versions of their software to accommodate. Juggling the apps I've downloaded from my phone, from iTunes, kept, deleted, etc. onto the phone itself is a bit of a mess and I keep forgetting to update the sync settings prior to actually syncing.

The other half of the App Store problems involve, well, the apps themselves. The now much blogged $999 "I Am Rich" app is probably the epitome of the controversy - but much of this is also due to a much inflated sense of what Apple would allow and disallow from the store in general. And much of that was a complete lack of messaging on Apple's part on what they would allow and disallow. It was, and probably pretty much is, roughly designed as "what we want". Some people took that to mean that if you didn't follow Apple's much touted design concepts, you wouldn't get through the door.

Honestly I was always skeptical of that and somewhat expected to be ... well, pretty much what it is. There's been a lot of comments about Apple allowing an app like "I Am Rich" onto the store as well as for Apple removing such an app. My suspicion was always that Apple would be more like a bouncer than a fashionista at a party - it's in Apple best interests to have the widest range of apps on the store and a high volume. They pretty much can't lose here, a lot of free apps mean that there is more incentive for people to own an iPhone and a lot of pay apps means more to their bottom line.

The key phrase there being - a lot of apps in general.

The real problem, I think, goes back to the concept of trialware. The real problem is that there isn't a decent mechanism for determining what's truly crap and what is not. Something like "I Am Rich" is probably pretty easy to discern for most rational people but I could see where Apple might pull it just to avoid dealing with an angry customer. "I Am Rich" is really a non-issue, a humorous footnote in what will be the history of the App Store, but the real problem for Apple would be a glut of $9.99 and $19.99 apps which completely suck. If people pay up front for apps that don't pay off, they'll be less likely to try them out in the future.

Which defeats the whole "have a lot of apps" angle in the first place.

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