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6 years of the App Store

Wanted by Steve Jobs, he turns 6 the digital store that revolutionized the world of phone, tablet and computer software

(Photo: Getty Images)(Photo: Getty Images)

Six years ago today he was leaving the age of the app. Merit of Apple's App Store, the first to call itself explicitly so and with the aim of creating a new way of distributing software via download with payment through a single account and a single digital identity, which are then those that Apple users also use for buy music, movies and then books on the iTunes Store, and to access the company's cloud and email services founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

The story of the simple App Store: on 10 July 2008, Apple made iPhone 2G and iPhone 3G available to users an iTunes update, thanks to which it was possible to download third-party applications for iOS, the operating system of the phones (and then of the Apple tablets) which is still simply called iPhone OS 2.0.

The move showed first of all one thing: Steve Jobs had once again managed to manage a marvelous start (the launch of the iPhone 2G in January 2007 had caused a real sensation all over the world) concealing at the same time part of the truth: the iPhone was incomplete.

(Photo: Getty Images)(Photo: Getty Images)

In fact, for a year and a half, third-party applications had not been made available. If you wanted to use the iPhone, you could use them only half a dozen series applications. Fine, but with lots of limitations. Especially because even the last of the Nokia based on Symbian or the poorest of the Motorola had the possibility of installing native applications, not to mention that many not particularly sophisticated smartphones had at least a Java Virtual Machine that allowed to put third-party software (wonderful games for Nokia and applications for the productivity of old BlackBerry and Palm). All this heterogeneous world and instead the iPhone no: that could not be changed, no third-party software.

In fact, in January 2007 Steve Jobs had explained to the MacWorld audience that there was no need to have applications to download: enough and advanced Mobile Safari which, with its power and completeness, enabled developers to create optimized mini-websites. Safari allowed (and still allows) to save bookmarks in the form of icons on the iPhone screen and this closed the circle: Do you want the apps? ",asked Steve Jobs. "Well, save website bookmarks, because those are your apps.

In the general excitement of the launch of the iPhone, few commented on the lack of third-party stores and apps. Also why they are much more conspicuous faults, like Copy-and-paste or MMS. Instead it was only a matter of time. In July 2008, in fact, together with the launch of the iPhone 3G and the second version of the iPhone operating system, there was also this novelty of the apps contained in a store and available for purchase with a simple click.

(Photo: Getty Images)(Photo: Getty Images)

Built following the iTunes Store already known in the music field for six years, the app store followed the same rules. Both on Mac and on PC, in fact iTunes contained optimized web pages that allowed to download the apps, some free and others for a fee. The developers had the possibility to upload their apps that had to be approved one by one by Apple following specific guidelines. Apple was holding 30% of the price of the app, which was set freely by the seller, against a minimum price of 79 euro cents (99 cents of a dollar). In the case of a free app, however, Apple took on all management and download fees.

Below every single app, customer reviews, in a mechanism that perfectly mimicked the one launched by Amazon with its book store at the end of the nineties and that leveled the ground of competition between big software and small independent software houses. Removed the problem of physical distribution and by linking to the long queue to establish the judgments (essential, in fact, the lists of new apps and the most downloaded app divided between free apps and paid apps for each product category, from games to apps for the office) the democratic revolution in Apple's paddock, it begins by highlighting that the little ones are much more innovative than the big ones. It will take at least two to three years before the software giant's apps land on the iPhone and then the iPad. And even before Steve Ballmer quit Satya Nadella's place because the Office package, ready for two years, was made available to iOS users.

(Photo: Getty Images)(Photo: Getty Images)

Apple's choices for the construction of the App Store, driven by the company's marketing team and subjected to the implacable judgment of Steve Jobs, have had an enormous effect. In fact the App Store was not only the first, but has also defined the characteristics of the app market. A market that already existed even though it was not called so, given that for at least ten years there were sites that allowed third-party apps to be downloaded to other terminals, such as the historic Handango, the Linux repositories (Ubuntu and Debian) and Maemo. Apple has made it popular, appealing to developers, safe for users, uniform in its performance since the iPhones and then the iPads all have standard sizes.

On Android (and Windows) fragmentation prevails because of the wider base of hardware devices different in size and performance produced by different companies and the slowness with which users update (when companies and telephone companies allow it!) The system operating. Allepoca, the various Symbian and other mignon operating systems were even more difficult to feed with an app flow sufficient to make the market appealing to non-amateur developers. Apple has known compact, give uniqueness and meaning to this drive which turned out to be very powerful, so much so that the digital download as a distribution system was then transferred also to PC and Mac. Always Apple with its Mac App Store not only allows you to buy and download many third-party software, but even its new systems operational, updating from one version to the next. Apple has made the software a commodity to the point that it offers its most precious packages (iLife and iWork, with software for managing its own data and personal productivity) and in the end also the operating system itself, to be able to remain competitive with Google and crush in a Microsoft corner, which instead linked to a model based on the sale of software licenses.

What are the numbers of the app-economy? How big is the app market? Currently in the Apple Store, according to Tim Cook told WWDC in San Francisco about a month ago, there are 1.2 million apps downloaded 75 billion times out of 800 million iOS devices and 85 million Macs, produced from about 9 million registered developers (individual registration so often more developers work for the same company). The App Store gave birth to the Blackberry App World, the Android Market, up to the Amazon Store that cost a long time between the Cupertino company and that of Seattle on the right to use the App Store name exclusively.

(Photo: Getty Images)(Photo: Getty Images)

If for Apple the app store was a great bargain, the status also for many developers, especially small and independent. Planetary successes like Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja they are born thanks to the store and its business model that facilitates the small ones on the global market. Up to the end of 2013 around 10 billion dollars had been turned over in payments from users to app developers, a third of which ended up in the coffers of Cupertino, which invented and manages the platform and takes care of the worldwide distribution of the apps .

Not all countries have the same store: the apps are in fact not only protected with DRM to avoid that they can be copied (you can do it, but only with jailbroken phones, a practice not recommended to the extent that it violates the law on copyright and puts users' personal data is at risk), but they are also divided into regional stores: the individual App Stores are on a national basis and the address of the bank from which the credit card linked to the person who registers to determine the nationality is authentic. then the store it belongs to. In this way Apple artificially keeps different legal worlds separate also from the software point of view and can play on different taxation, on different legal guarantees: for example the privacy law, which changes from country to country, but also on what is allowed to minors.

Should you make an app? Until a couple of years ago it was a thriving economy especially because it had released the energies of a generation of digital makers and artisans. Today, with increasingly powerful phones and 64-bit performances comparable to those of a desktop computer, in reality the tormenting effort of a solitary genius becomes less and less relevant, and at least the small companies, boutiques and ateliers are back in vogue. digital. But accounts don't always come back: an average app is downloaded 62500 times. At one euro per app, minus the third for Apple, taxes and other development costs, very little money remains, certainly not enough to justify an entire company. So, more expensive apps, at least compared to the great democratization of prices that in 2008 had brought down the nominal value of the software, and above all apps in series. Nowadays, those who develop software for mobile platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows are increasingly doing so on all three different worlds, trying to create not one but more apps in series, to maximize the chances of earning.

in short, it has already become a different world compared to the beginning: a world that has changed radically in just six years.


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