App Store the forbidden fruit


In January, Apple launched its ‘App Store’ for use with Macs running at least OSX 10.6.6. Surprisingly for Apple, this wasn’t really done with that much fanfare, well, at least no eulogising presentation from Steve Jobs.

App StoreThe store is a great way to find and install software onto your computer, with updates being automatically detected and flagged for you. It also, as with the iPhone/iPad, allows both free and paid applications to be installed allowing smaller developers to get their product delivered without them having the costs involved in doing so (well apart from the 30% fee which goes to Apple) but I think for smaller developers to get their software onto the market, it’s a fair price to pay. However, for larger and more established companies such as Adobe (mentioned for the current hostile nature of their and Apple’s relationship), with their own established delivery mechanisms, I’m not sure paying Apple 30% will be in their plans.

This brings me to the worrying path that Apple seems to be heading down in insisting that, the devices you buy from them are not yours to do with as you please, but are rather a piece of equipment which Apple will dictate all after sales usage of. You can’t install anything Apple doesn’t approve of onto the iPhone or iPad without ‘jailbreaking’ it, which will invalidate the warranty. To be fair it isn’t just Apple engaging in this practice, when Sony withdrew the OtherOS feature and then forced users to do the firmware update to prevent the installation of it or be refused access to the PlayStation Network, they were vilified by many.

For Sony, their decision to remove OtherOS meant a lot of hacking activity around the PlayStation leading recently to the private master key to the PS3's DRM system being discovered, which effectively broke the system wide open. This led to Sony releasing the hounds (lawyers) upon the hackers in question. Those involved make the point that it is their equipment that they purchased and are free to use in whatever way they see fit, including cracking it open and being able to install unsanctioned software on it. Of course, the same method can be used to play pirated games on the console but the people responsible insist they have no support for video game piracy.

My concern with Apple is whether we are going to shortly see the removal of the optical drive from their machines and users only being allowed to install software from the App Store, effectively completing Apple’s walled garden, moat and all. This would then force all developers, big and small, to pay Apple to deliver their product which I don’t think will sit well with larger companies who have their own delivery infrastructures in place.

Recently Apple launched a venture with News Corp to produce ‘The Daily’ App with the content delivered through iTunes for 99 cents per week. This has led to talk that all news content Apps will soon be forced into using iTunes instead of their own delivery systems giving Apple a 30% cut as well as ownership of their subscriber lists.

Whilst they delivery some amazing and innovative devices and user interfaces, it does seem that Apple are determined to also overtake Microsoft in the evil and greedy corporations league table.