It’s hard to imagine that it’s been only five years since Apple’s App Store hit the Internet and your iOS devices. The launch had such a strong impact that in our minds, it feels like the store has been around for a lot longer. Not only did Apple change the mobile game, the App Store started a trend that has shaped much of the tech industry.
We are not just talking about the mobile space, which undoubtedly wouldn’t have been the same without the App Store. But Apple’s July 2008 release of the App Store has changed how PCs are sold. While PC hardware is still a major talking point, there is equal place in the conversation for apps and games. Would the Windows 8 Store have existed if not for the App Store? Would apps be a central topic of conversation at all? These are questions that will arguably be answered in the negative if not for the App Store. The impact of the App Store cannot be understated and here are three areas where it has been most telling.
5 years of the App Store
Moolah for developers
Whatever said and done, Apple’s walled garden policy for the App Store has benefited developers immeasurably. Apple’s approach limits the options one has to pirate apps on iOS devices. In contrast, the Android way allows users to install non-Play Store apps easily. This means more users are on Android, but Apple is leading the way when it comes to revenue earned through app and game sales. Developers appreciate the fact that Apple makes it tougher to have illegal copies of their apps. Apple also has a clear and robust policy for sharing revenue with developers and this has been present since the first incarnation of the App Store.
At the WWDC this year, CEO Tim Cook announced that since its beginning, the company has paid out a staggering $10 billion to app developers. That, Cook claimed, is more than the three other app platforms – presumably Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. So it’s no surprise that apps such as Instagram and Flipboard, which have become near household names among smartphone users, first landed on the App Store. So did popular game titles of the Angry Birds series. Even now, iOS gets first dibs on many new apps, simply because the App Store is tightly controlled and loss of revenue due to piracy is a minor issue on the platform.
Mobile over PC
If you have been watching the tech space, you would know that the PC industry is in a steep decline in terms of sales. PC makers are already looking for ways to provide a mobile and desktop experience in one package. The slew of touch-type hybrids that have been launched in the past year are testimony to the fact that mobile devices are seeing more sales than traditional notebooks or desktops. While there are several reasons for this decline, it can be safely said that Apple’s flourishing store, the presence of productivity apps and powerful mobile hardware have contributed their bit to the decline. Having easy access to thousands of apps that provide entertainment, utility and business tools drew more buyers and users to the mobile space.
Another PC tradition that has been overthrown is the skewed hardware vs software debate. Where previously hardware was considered the weightier aspect (at least when it came to Windows PCs), nowadays the discussion revolves around the apps or the lack of the same on the Windows 8 Store. This is a direct result of the mobile revolution and the precedent that Apple set by having a dedicated and centralised app storefront for its devices.
Millions of apps and games
Ever noticed the huge amount of games on the App Store? Indeed, one of the criticisms of iOS in the beginning (during the dark days of no multitasking) was that it’s only good for games. But even after the platform matured, stellar line-up of games it has had since the beginning. Even today some of the best games for mobile launch on iOS before Android; for instance, Carmageddon, which only came to the Google platform last month. Ultra-popular titles such as the several Angry Birds games, Temple Run also came to Android second. LetterPress, a terrific word strategy game, only exists as a rip-off on the Play Store, while the official version remains iOS-only.
Thanks to the popularity of App Store games, revenues have shot up for mobile game developers. Presumably, a big chunk of all the money that Apple paid out to developers went to game makers. Apple saw that people were willing to pay for games on their mobiles, thus there was a spate of games with in-app purchases and micro transactions, in addition to one-time paid games.
The "Freemium" model, a tactic used by many big-name game publishers for consoles and PCs, has transcended into the mobile space brilliantly. A recent survey revealed that 95 percent of users are willing to pay for games and thus in 2011, the industry raked in $12 billion in revenue. More than a third of the 100 top grossing games on iOS have micro-transactions and in-app purchases. Game developers are making nearly $13 per month from every user on sale of virtual goods alone. The survey also said 100 million Americans play games on their mobiles, that’s nearly a third of the country’s population. The mobile industry is expected to double by 2016 and Apple has a played a huge role in creating this big market for game developers thanks to the App Store.
Even though the App Store is going strong at five, the threat from Android and other platforms is more clear than ever. Android and its Play Store are already the most popular platforms in the world today, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the App Store acted as a guiding light.