The App store for the iPhone is what has set it apart from all of its competitors. It has single handedly made a very nice phone into an indispensible mobile device without equal that anyone and everyone can use and enjoys doing so. Where did the App store concept start and where is it heading?
Currently the iPhone App store has a couple of defining characteristics…
1) Central repository for all apps
2) Auto-upgrade of applications due to central repository nature
3) Easy search, click and install of applications
4) Takes care of any dependencies
5) Acts as a safety net, no malicious apps can make it past the central authorities gaze
6) View reviews and add your own
Where did this concept come from and whom already has it?
Who has it?
Every major Linux distribution. I will use Ubuntu as an example as I know it best. Ubuntu has a drop dead simple search and install interface. This is one of the reasons I moved to it years ago. I need an IRC client? I search for IRC and 8 applications show up. It lets me know which ones are the most popular and what ratings it has received (Note: on Ubuntu you cannot view reviews themselves, just see a single overall rating). That gives ubuntu 5 out of 6 which is approximately a 90~. That’s not bad at all considering many long time Ubuntu users don’t even know about it 🙂
The BSD world has ports, which can be used command line or through a GUI. This allows your to easily manage and install applications. However, currently there is no rating system that I know of. BSD ports is solid but the ease of use is nowhere close to Ubuntu or the Click-and-Run interface of Linspire.
Blackberry, Android and every other mobile OS will have one soon. This has become readily apparent in direct statements by the companies themselves or force of reality to stay competitive.
Where did it start?
This is something that I am sure to get a lot of flack for. It’s like asking who discovered Pi? That being said, I come to my conclusion based on something that has most of the characteristics listed above. Not 1 out of 3, and not 2 out of 3, most. I attribute the central repository concept to a long standing open source project. Debian. When the APT concept was introduced it was revolutionary. I can install something by just typing “apt-get install mosaic” ? GET OUT OF HERE. Everyone in the Linux world I knew was in shock. We were used to downloading RPMs or things from source and compiling it to install. Needless to say, there was no turning back. There were many spin offs, some with GUIs (YAST from Suse Linux fame), others command line (Up2date and YUM) but nothing was as rock solid at APT. I believe this is still so today.
Who needs it NOW?
So who could really use an app store? Oddly enough, OS X and Windows. Currently, if you need a chess game for these two operating systems, what do you do? You go online and search for “chess windows XP” in Google or go to download.com or whatever you site of choice. It takes multiple clicks, some advertisements and then you MAY get what you are looking for.
Then you must download it, install it and there you have it. What happens when the author releases an update to stop the horrific bug which corrupts a persons harddrive drive over time? Oh yeah, you won’t get it. Sorry. This is reason enough to have a central repository.
What about the non-techie? We have all had this conversation…
Uncle Joe: (calling at 5:30AM) Hey Timmy, my web browser only works on 2 web pages now, can you come over and fix it?
Timmy: You need to upgrade your Web Browser from Netscape 4.7 to something newer. Just download firefox and install it, its a cinch Uncle Joe.
Uncle Joe: Download what? I don’t need a fire or a fox! I got food and heat Timmy, what are you talking about?
What are the alternatives? When there is an upgrade it is automatically downloaded and installed. If they need to install something new, they search for it, are presented with three options, choose one, click and install.
This would greatly help secure operating systems and reduce the amount of malware, viruses and botnets.
If everyone could download the *most common* apps from a central repository you would greatly cut-down on viruses and malware. People download copies of programs they want only to find out a trojan/vuris was embedded and now their computer is hosed. If the preferred way was to recieve an app through appstore.microsoft.com then they are fairly certain what they are downloading is clean and won’t destroy their system. This would suffice for 90% of the population.
Now, I don’t believe that this should be the only way to install software but the preffered way. I cannot stress this enough. Neither Apple nor microsoft should lock down their operating systems to the extent that they control all applications. While this may seem tempting (and should be ruled illegal by our court system if it wasn’t 10 years behind) this stifles innovation. Another issue is privacy. I don’t want Apple to know everything I do for no other reason than it’s none of their business. Therefore, the app store of the future should NOT track users habits or keep a history of their installed applications. This is an absolute privacy must and one that should be reinforced by law.
I hope this gets people thinking and that we move forward towards app stores for Windows and Mac. The benefits are too great to let slip by.