Considering App Stores

Anil Dash has a couple of posts worth a read that bracket Apple’s announcement of a forthcoming app store for OS X. The first simply considers app stores as a class. I am a little concerned at the inclusion of Linux package managers in this category but Canonical’s recent change to offer for sale software in Maverick Meerkat’s GUI front-end to apt certainly blurs the lines. I suppose I am really just thinking about this pedantically, that the term “app store” denotes something far more narrow than what Dash actually does an excellent job defining.

But wait — how could there be many, maybe even dozens, of app stores? Because they often take forms that we don’t expect, or piggyback on other platform pieces that weren’t originally conceived as an app store. To help make the concept clearer, I’ve outlined a few of the categories of app store that exist today, and collected some initial data about the size of these different app stores. Keep in mind: Many of these app stores serve more than one category, and those lines will only get blurrier in the future. I’ve deliberately erred on the side of stretching the definition of “app store” because I think it’s very likely that new contenders will rise in areas that weren’t previously considered competitive in this space.

Do read through his list of characteristics that define the contours of this space. I don’t disagree, at the very least his proposal is a clear and excellent basis for further discussion. He even assembles some empirical data to demonstrate how many examples fit into his definition.

His second post hits a little closer to home, asking how Mac OS X developers can work to ensure that Apple’s forthcoming app store for the platform isn’t the only offering available in a post-Lion world. It is hard to argue with the pragmatism in his suggestion of evolving existing systems to provide open, competitive distribution mechanisms.

It’s actually quite doable, if two unheralded but influential independent projects coordinate their efforts, or even merge. Their quiet ubiquity among third-party applications could create an emergent app store, turning a broad base of already-distributed and successful independent apps into a force with a lot more marketing and bargaining power in their discussions with Apple. So, who has the ability to change the balance of power here?

Personally, I do feel a bit vindicated in my recent decision to undertake a complete exodus (save for replacing perfectly serviceable hardware capable of running Linux) from all things Apple. What isn’t clear in the coverage from Apple’s press event earlier today is whether the Mac app store will be as closed as the iPhone one. The only data I’ve seen is on the revenue sharing, a hint at a similar approval process, and the proposed user experience. I’ll reserve further judgment on the perils of the Mac app store until we have more data on the DRM question. In the meantime, those who are still a part of the Apple ecosystem would do well to read Anil’s posts. If you are in a position to act on his plan for an open app store, seriously consider doing so.

All The App Stores, Anil Dash

How to Make an Open App Store on the Mac, Anil Dash

2 Replies to “Considering App Stores”

  1. I’m not one to invest in the future of a company’s policies — I prefer to invest in the present, for myself, and wait out the situation to see what comes. Hence, I will still be buying a Mac at my next purchase, but it will definitely not be running Lion, even if I have to reformat and reinstall myself.

    1. The operational life span of most computers is short enough that the calculus behind a purchasing decision can undoubtedly be adjusted at present moments of the future. I am also first and foremost in a believer of making the decision that is best for your particular needs. For me, that doesn’t include Apple’s recent urge to closing their development ecosystem and the associated, increasingly captive distribution channel.

      My sense is that the gap in what is available for producing media on other platforms is continually closing. At some point, I have to imagine that the question of utility will be roughly equal and I would hope that those loyal to Apple might be open to less proprietary alternatives.

      In the interim, I am happy to be able to afford to contribute to one of the communities making a difference in audio production on Linux. I do believe that eventually my participation and contributions will make that aspect of the equation simpler for those contemplating a switch to Linux. I am also willing to concede that if Apple responds to projects like Cinelerra and Ardour with better offerings on their platform that is also a viable and worthwhile outcome. If I had my druthers, the definition of a “better offering” from Apple would tilt more towards being open.

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