This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2011 issue of Unified Communications Magazine
While you have to admire the absolute genius of the Apple iTunes App Store and its potential to rake in $2 billion in revenue this year, the success of the store is the worst thing in the world for those who enjoy the ability to purchase software in an uncensored fashion. Although it’s eased, Apple (News - Alert) retains tight control over the applications that are allowed to run on the company’s iDevices, and now the computing industry is following suit with Android (News - Alert), RIM and Microsoft stores.
There are profound benefits to having a central authority manage apps that are available on a platform, such as ensuring applications aren’t acting in a malicious manner or breaking privacy rules. But having a company censor applications it doesn’t like based on content is problematic for many and runs counter to the open nature of computing.
In addition to an App Store, which works with iPods, iPads and iPhones, Apple recently has launched a Mac App Store for its Macintosh computers. The new store initially contained more than 1,000 computer apps in 21 categories, such as productivity, games and education.
One of my past posts on the downsides of closed app stores is titled “Steve Jobs is My Hero, But He Scares Me,” and in it I say:
Steve, you've earned your stripes. You are probably the best tech CEO around. But, I have to ask you once again, if the closed app store becomes the norm, do your customers really win? Moreover, can you guarantee your successors won't be prone to app censorship based on political affiliation or even religion? Should any company be so powerful as to determine what programs we can or can't run on our computers – especially when programs and content are merging? And given this intertwined relationship, isn't restricting an application the same thing as restricting our ability to access and read particular books?
I was concerned about the Google App Store as well and called it a walled garden, and the company responded that its intention is not to have a closed ecosystem but instead to protect users. This is good news.
The flipside to my negativity can be seen in my post comparing Apple’s App Store to OPEC – and in this case I detailed how app stores reduce software privacy and force users worldwide to pay for software. Of course there will always be jail-broken devices, but for now most devices aren’t purchased by hackers.
Back to the newest app store, it will include contributions from third-party developers such as Twitter Inc., Evernote (News - Alert) Corp., and Rovio Mobile Ltd., offering its colossal hit game, Angry Birds. In a statement, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said, “We think users are going to love this innovative new way to discover and buy their favorite apps.”
There are many positives to app stores and with hundreds of millions of users they obviously serve a very useful purpose. But for many, the centralization of app distribution will come with limitations that will severely inhibit their freedom to run the software of their choice on devices they purchase.
Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi