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Aug

App store dictators, mobile services & who controls the pipe?

Posted By Ian Homer Saturday, August 1, 2009. No Comments

This is the week that we saw Google Voice pulled from Apple’s app store concerning the industry sufficiently for the FCC to investigate.

Google Voice scares AT&T (and probably other operators) as it provides an alternative way for users to make calls as well as making it easy for user to switch between operators whilst keeping the same number (think roaming – pop in a local PAYG SIM).

I look back at my twitter stream from the week and I see a pattern of activity. We wait with baited breath to see if Apple will approve Spotify – an alternative to getting music from iTunes. We also see a pattern of rejections from Apple for PhoneGap apps. PhoneGap is an innovative service that makes it easy for web developers – with HTML, Javascript skills – to create iPhone apps … and Android apps … and Blackberry apps … and soon support for Palm WebOS, Nokia Symbian and Windows Mobile apps.

What is made clearly apparent is that an app store owner has control over what they choose to let there users install. Control is good – we don’t want apps to introduce vulnerability and stability risks to our phones and we probably want to avoid some of the shady sides of the industry – but who is to decide where to draw this line? When phone owners only have one place that they can go to get apps we are subject to problems of monopolisation control.

Apple cannot maintain strict control of application delivery to iPhones without seeing a backlash of people looking at alternative platforms with their alternative app stores. Apple have the user experience advantage at the moment – no where else is it so easy for user to get their hands on a rich set of applications – but as alternatives rise which have decent user experience and provide killer functionality missing from the iPhones, iPhone lovers may start to look elsewhere.

Michael Arrington (Techcrunch) quits the iPhone and Steven Frank (Co-founder, Panic) is “Not buying any future iPhone OS based devices” until the situation improves.

Apple, the iPhone and their app store have lifted the mobile industry in the past couple of years. I pray that Apple relax a few of their constraints, as I want Nokia, Palm and the Google Clan to have beat Apple by improving their user experience – not because Apple gives away the customers.

Update:

  • Frustrating transcript of a call between Riverturn (provider of Voice Central one of the apps that Apple pulled) and apple highlighting some the challenges that app developers face
  • Who refunds all those people who can’t now get support for the app they’ve downloaded and previously paid for
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