Tag Archives: app store

Why is there so much junk in Apple’s App Store?

After 4 weeks with Apple’s iPhone 4 I’m mainly impressed with everything other than the call quality (I am in a poor signal area for O2). I’ve been exploring the App Store though, and while there are many great apps there, there is also a huge amount of junk. Here’s a review for an app I was looking at:

This app is such a con. The adverts are deliberately put in the most awkward places so they get pressed accidentally; there is no “would you like to make a call” dialog box, nothing, it goes straight to an 090 number and even if you cancel the call instantly you are still charged … Apple should be ashamed for letting this little con artist on to the app store!

Other users report frequent crashes, lost data and so on.

With over 200,000 apps available, it’s not surprising that some are duds. However, given Apple’s insistence on checking every one, I’d expected the overall standard to be higher. Apple cannot easily judge how useful an app is, particularly in a niche area, but things like instability or unfair advertising practices should be caught.

Another odd thing: if you browse the store on the device, you cannot sort by rating, as far as I can tell, making it hard to find the better apps quickly. I guess this could be designed to mitigate the “winner takes all” factor: if one or two apps in a common search category achieve high ratings, it is difficult for newcomers to get noticed sufficiently to drive up their own ratings. Still, give the amount of dross in there, it would help to have this as an option, even if it were not allowed to be the default sort.

The existence of so many poor apps also puts into context the Thoughts on Flash posted by Steve Jobs. I kind-of understand why Apple wants to exclude the Flash runtime from its device platform; but that does not explain the ban on Adobe’s Packager for iPhone, which compiles a Flash application to an iPhone binary. That might make sense if Jobs could point to the consistent high technical standard of iPhone Apps; but that is simply not the case.

Windows 8: detailed plans leaked, show Microsoft cycle of invent, fail, copy

No doubt crisis meetings in Redmond as plans for Windows 8, shared apparently with OEM partners, leak to the web. Of course it may all be an elaborate hoax, and even if not, the slides all state:

Disclaimer – Windows 8 discussion, this is not a plan of record

Still, it looks plausible. So what’s new?

In some ways, Windows 7 was low-hanging fruit. Simply fix what was broken in Windows Vista, make Windows faster, more reliable and more pleasant to use. Windows 8 needs to take a step forward, and according to these slides this is what is planned:

1. Elevation of the Slate as a key form factor. The slides refer to three basic form factors: Slate for web and media consumption, laptop for productivity and all-in-one touch control desktop for both.

2. 3D content display along with “HTML 5 video” and DRM, focus on DLNA.

3. Instant On, always connected. Hang on, wasn’t this promised for 7? And Vista? The docs do refer to a “New Off state” called Logoff + Hibernate, with optimised hibernate plus a “Boot/Shutdown look and feel”. The idea is that this becomes the norm for a switch off.

4. Log on with face recognition. One of the few pieces of real innovation on offer here.

5. Proximity based sleep and wake.

6. Another go at the Windows App Store. This time Microsoft is serious. Approval process. Dashboard for developers with telemetry. Auto update. Software license roams with the user, as do settings – a great idea. Partner co-branding, ho hum.

7. Reinstall or “reset” Windows while keeping apps, docs and settings. A bit like the old repair install, though the difference here seems to be that this is a genuine wipe and reinstall, with apps reinstalled from the App Store. 

8. Windows accounts “could be connected to the cloud”. I would think they must be, if the app store stuff with roaming software licenses is to work. Hooking your Windows login to a Passport ID is not new though; I’m guessing it will just be more prominent and important.

Needless to say, this is not the whole Windows 8 story, even if genuine. What do we learn though? Mainly that Microsoft is taking its lead from Apple and accepts that the App Store concept is central to our future computing experience; the Slate also seems influenced by iPad.

We are also seeing the return of Passport. Most of what was in the controversial .NET My Services from 2001 is now accepted as normal, after Google and Facebook have softened us up for the concepts.

There’s a pattern here. Microsoft gets bright idea – Tablet, Windows Marketplace, Passport. Does half-baked implementation which flops. Apple or Google works out how to do it right. Microsoft copies them.

When do we get Windows 8? You can try and puzzle out the slide on “Windows 8 product cycle” if you like; but I’d bet that it will be around three years from the release of Windows 7: mid to late 2012.

Adobe’s Kevin Lynch: we’re focusing on everybody else

I enjoyed this interview with Adobe’s Kevin Lynch from Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, where he talks about the Apple problem. Adobe has created a compiler for Flash that creates a native code iPhone application, but Apple’s latest developer agreement prohibits its use.

Lynch presents it as a matter of freedom. Software developers should be allowed to target multiple operating systems with one code base; and developers should be allowed to deploy applications without needing permission from a company.

“We’re focusing on everybody else” he says, talking about forthcoming devices that will support Flash and the Flash-based Open Screen Project. “All the variety and the innovation that happening with all hese other companies is going to dwarf what’s happening from one company,” he says. “We’re at the beginning of the game not the end of the game.”

The snag is that Apple’s devices are the most attractive market for applications, thanks to smooth deployment via the App Store and the higher than average wealth of Apple’s customers. It’s a matter of which is more true: that Flash is marginalising iPhone and iPad, or that iPhone and iPad are marginalising Flash.

I’d also suggest that having Adobe control the platform for the Open Screen Project is not ideal, if we are going to talk about software freedom. If you listen to the interview, notice how Lynch tries to avoid mentioning Flash in the same breath as the Open Screen Project. It’s really the Adobe Flash Screen Project, but you wouldn’t know from what he says.

Nevertheless I agree with both his points. Both the App Store and Apple’s new restrictive developer agreement are bad for competition and I dislike them. That said, I doubt that the existence of a few upset developers will have any noticeable impact on Apple’s success. What will make a difference is if the “variety and innovation” which Lynch talks about produces devices that are better than Apple’s offerings.

Apple’s lock-in works. Can anyone improve on App Store?

Timothy B Lee writes of the App Store/iPhone and now iPad lock-in:

The store is an unnecessary bottleneck in the app development process that limits the functionality of iPhone applications and discourages developers from adopting the platform.

While instinctively I agree, the evidence for the damaging effect of the App Store is not there. On the contrary, the locked-in iPhone has transformed the mobile app market and expanded it remarkably.

Reason: the user experience is great, the approval process at least weeds out apps that would be intrusive or harm performance, and installing an app from the store is less risky than installing an app onto Windows or OS X.

Ironically, Apple’s own iTunes is an example of an app that installs services you do not necessarily want or need. Personally I keep it off PCs and use a Mac Mini for gadgets that require it.

Is it possible to find a app distribution model that avoids the monopolistic and dictatorial model of App Store, but delivers an equally good user experience during and after purchase and installation?

A good question, but to my mind an open one.