It has been five long years since Steve Jobs first unveiled the App Store, during which time it has become the world’s largest digital distribution platform. Launched alongside the iPhone 3G back in 2008, the App Store has grown from strength to strength; it has completely changed the virtual goods market, and how we go about buying software for both our phones and PCs.
In five years the App Store has seen over 50 billion apps downloaded through it, and over $10 billion has been distributed to developers. Over 800 apps are downloaded every second, and on average every visitor to the store downloads over 100 programs. No one would have dreamed it would have been able to surpass such benchmarks when the concept was first envisioned, and in so short a time. When the store first went live it played host to a meagre 500 applications, a figure dwarfed by the store’s now massive library of 900,000 apps.
The App Store represented the next step towards mass-market digital distribution. Virtual stores may have been nothing new – the market for the online distribution of applications had been growing for some time – but none quite attempted it at the same scale as Apple’s App store. Connected to every iPhone, iPad, and now Mac, the App Store became as ingrained in the Apple eco-system as the products it was installed on. Originally merely an additional service to support these products, it has become one of the defining features of many of these devices, and helps separate Apple’s products from the competition.
Apple’s new store not only represented a step forward for digital distribution, but also allowed for small-scale developers to become involved; suddenly anyone could make an app for the iPhone. No longer were developers hindered by high production costs; anyone with a PC and some knowledge of application design could make their own app with Apple’s development kit. This resulted in an explosion of new and different innovative ideas, which made the iPhone unique in an increasingly crowded market. A wealth of new tech startups were born, many of which have become household names. Roxio’s Angry Bird’s for instance, the all-time top paid iPhone App, has expanded rapidly in the past few years and is no longer just found on your phone; the brand has become a worldwide hit, with a number of Angry Birds theme parks opening up the world over, a booming toy business, and plans for a movie which is to be released in 2016.
Apple changed how we access and consume data; almost every popular online service now has a dedicated app. The App Store has completed altered the way consumers access and operate services such as Facebook and Twitter. More people access Facebook through their mobile phone than a PC now, forcing the company to alter its strategy; mobile access to Facebook has become an important new revenue stream for the company, so important in fact that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, believes Facebook has become a ‘mobile company’.
Maybe most interesting of all is the app stores which have spawned across different platforms; every operating system now come equipped with its own app store – it would be suicide to omit one. Google’s Play Store for the Android OS is the only one which holds a candle to Apple’s offering; it features many of the same offerings, and is of a similar size, but it has had problems with malware in the past. Microsoft has implemented its own version across Windows devices, as have BlackBerry, but they are very limited in what they offer despite growing at a rapid pace. App stores have become as important to a phone, tablet, or even PC, as the system it is ran on. As such, poorly stocked App stores are a bane to any OS.
Apple started a smartphone revolution with the iPhone, but at the core of that revolution was the App Store. Apple could not have taken such a stranglehold over the market and for so long had it not been for the versatility of the App Store, which still sets the iPhone apart from the competition to this day. It may have not been a new idea, digital distribution has been around for a long time now, but no one else attempted it at such a grand scale. The impact has been so significant that people will say ‘App’ as opposed to ‘application’ when discussing software, even when using other ‘app stores’. There have been an array of imitations and similar services made available by competitors, many of which sand up in their own right, but none can match the vastness and comprehensiveness of Apple’s original offering.