When Apple introduced the App Store it did a couple of things: it brought about a super-smooth path for purchasing content to an iOS device; and it brought about an effective monopoly. If you wanted to sell an app to iOS users, you had to do so through the Apple App Store. Since then the kind-of-shady-is-it-legal-or-isn't-it Cydia store has also come about for people brave enough to jailbreak their devices, but realistically speaking, Apple's own store is still the one and only way of purchasing iOS apps.
The drawback of this is that Apple is able to position themselves as the gatekeeper of what can and can't be sold or purchased, and can set the terms and conditions; the bonus for iOS users is that they don't have to trawl the net for an app they're looking for, but only have to visit one shop and if it's not there, it doesn't exist. Simple.
Over the last couple of weeks we've had two relevant announcements.
First Opera (the browser company) announced that they were launching an app store carrying apps for a variety of mobile operating systems (though of course not for iOS); and then, yesterday, Amazon announced that they were launching an Android-only-for-now mobile app store as well.
The benefits to the consumer are that as app stores proliferate, terms and conditions may become more favourable to both developers and customers, yielding financial or other benefits. The big drawback is that if I as a consumer am looking for an app for a particular purpose I potentially have to go through several app stores in order to see what's available where and at what price. Sure this is what life has been like in the real world forever; but in that sense it feels like it's a step backwards, rather than building on the cleverness that was the original app store and coming up with a next, even cleverer iteration.
It'll be interesting to see how the various app stores take off and what, if any, impact they'll have on the design and concept behind the original Apple App Store.
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