Sunday, 6 December 2009

The truth about the App Store crisis: there is no crisis

For months now, the blogosphere has been up in arms about Apple's App Store admission policies. The argument goes that Apple is too draconian, arbitrary and cynical in exercising its rights to control what it sells on its own store. Supposedly, App developers are deserting the store in droves as a consequence. The truth is, one might describe this exodus, if there is one at all, as nothing more than a flight to quality (in the sense that quality remains, whilst the rest departs).

Every so often, a moderately notable iPhone developer story occurs - such as the departure of a lead developer at Facebook, or the grumbling of a long time Mac developer who produces apps that facilitate piracy. Bloggers everywhere get hot under the collar, and eventually Phil Schiller, or even SJ himself, steps in with some soothing words to calm the waves in the tea cup.

Each time we go through this little set piece, some bloggers subsequently muse over the puzzling fact that the mainstream media don't seem to get this story. But there is no real mystery here. It simply isn't a story at all. The whole value of the App Store proposition is predicated on the vast number of apps it offers - and this in turn is indicative of the remarkable diversity and quantity of app developers. The idea that the App Store lacks developer support is plainly absurd. That is an accusation far better levelled at Android or Web OS. A few smaller developers may be grumbling, but the truth is that these departures have negligible impact on the bigger picture.

If anything, the departure of a few small-fry app developers may have a positive impact on the overall quality of what is available. I for one sometimes suffer from a "can't see the wood for all the trees" problem with the App store, and I know I'm not alone.

Whilst some smaller developers may be off to the supposedly greener pastures of Android, larger developers who have fallen afoul of Apple's policies - such as Google, with their Google Voice app - have simply picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and carried on. They might not agree with Apple's policies, but they'd be cutting off their noses despite their faces to desert the App Store altogether. Lesser developers may simply be too small to see it that way.

Despite the protestations of TechCrunch and others, for mainstream media like the NY Times, the App Store story will continue to be about the remarkable range of apps available - not their shortage.