App stores, trust and anti-trust

We all, I think, understand that the iPhone was a generational change in computing, but that change came in two parts. The multitouch interface is obvious, but the change in the software model was just as important. Apple changed how software development worked, and by doing so expanded the number of people who could comfortably, safely use a computer from a few hundred million to a few billion.

Specifically, Apple tried to solve three kinds of problem:

  • Putting apps in a sandbox, where they can only do things that Apple allows and cannot ask (or persuade, or trick) the user for permission to do ‘dangerous’ things, means that apps become completely safe. A horoscope app can’t break your computer, or silt it up, or run your battery down, or watch your web browser and steal your bank details.

  • An app store is a much better way to distribute software. Users don’t have to mess around with installers and file management to put a program onto their computer - they just press ‘Get’. If you (or your customers) were technical this didn’t seem like a problem, but for everyone else with 15 copies of the installer in their download folder, baffled at what to do next, this was a huge step forward.

  • Asking for a credit card to buy an app online created both a friction barrier and a safety barrier - ‘can I trust this company with my card?’ Apple added frictionless, safe payment.

All of this levelled the playing (Read more...)