This Week in Tablets: 6 Fun facts about the App Store’s first 5 years

July 13, 2013

This week marked the passing of what will likely go down in history as one of, if not the most important milestone in the history of personal computing.

On July 10, 2008, Apple released its App Store into the wild. The reaction from consumers was a vociferous one. Hungry for as much content as possible, people began downloading immediately.  

I took a look back at Steve Jobs’ introduction of the App store on March 13, 2008, and found myself mesmerized. It’s the former Apple CEO at his best, defining a problem—app developers have no easy way to get in front of consumers—and then offering up a common sense solution. (Jobs really was great, by the way. Check it out.)

I also found it interesting to go back in time and see what critics were saying about the notion of the App Store. Now, we all take these two words together for granted, but it’s clear that in 2008, this was not the case.

Here’s an example: According to Engadget’s coverage of Apple’s App Store announcement in March 2008, the App Store would “run right on your iPhone or iPod touch…and lets you choose your apps and download them straight to the device.” The story continued with some classic snark: “Unfortunately, this will be the ‘exclusive way’ to get new apps, which might not sit well with the ‘free, as in free speech’ crowd.”

Engadget also wrote that while developers will get a 70% cut of the revenue, Apple’s 30% was being designated by the company as “upkeep”. At the time, Apple claimed it did not plan to make money off the App Store at all.

Yes, this sounds like pure goodwill positioning on Apple’s part, but it does makes me wonder if even Apple had any idea how big the App Store would be. I don't think that, even in Apple's wildest dreams, they were projecting this kind of success–in terms of apps submitted by developers or downloaded by consumers. 

6 Things you might not know about the App Store

As I was walking down memory lane, I also stumbled across the following fun facts:

  • Upon launch, the App Store had 500 apps in the store. The original set included Ebay, Facebook, Super Monkey Ball (remember that?).
  • iPhone and iPod users downloaded over 10 million applications from the App Store in its first weekend of existence.
  • The App store trailed the iPhone’s launch by almost a year.
  • Apple has paid out $10 billion to developers since 2008.
  • As of June, 2013, there are over 900,000 iPhone apps in the App Store, and 375,000 native iPad apps available.
  • As of May 2013, consumers have downloaded over 50 billion apps from Apple’s App Store alone. 50 billion is a staggering number that’s pretty much impossible for humans to get our heads around.

It's also worth noting in case you didn't read it that, for a limited time, Apple is offering up a wide variety of its most popular apps for free right now on the App Store. There are some real finds available, including some $20 apps that now cost nothing. 

iPad developers quick to catch up

All of the above makes it even easier to understand why Apple continues to dominate mindshare in the tablet space, even as Android continues to grow larger in market share.

What’s also amazing is how quickly the tablet-specific app market has evolved over the last three years. A recent survey by Appcelerator/IDC shows that developers are now expressing an almost matching interest in developing apps for tablets and phones.

With this in mind, I took a look at the non-native iPad-only apps I use the most on a day-to-day basis. Here’s what I see at the top of my queue:

San Francisco Chronicle: I read San Francisco’s local paper every single day.

Wall Street Journal: Ditto WSJ—I read the digital edition of the paper every day.

CNN news app: It’s the first thing I check in the morning.

MLB At Bat: I’m a baseball junkie. MLB’s app allows me to watch baseball on my tablet while I’m watching baseball on my television.

Chrome Browser: Cloud-based syncing, and the ability to remember open tabs and bookmarks across multiple platforms makes this a winner. I also use it for keeping track of my fantasy baseball leagues.

Evernote: Yes, I complained about it last week. Yes, it’s still an essential app for my work and my life. e-commerce app: When I see something I want to buy—books, vacation gear, whatever—I pop into Amazon’s app and put the product on my wish list.

Xfinity TV Remote: It’s not perfect—ordering up On Demand is a terrible experience—but this app offers a nice way to quickly search for TV shows and movies, and control the cable box in my living room. Also allows me to set recordings on the cable box in my entertainment room (otherwise known as my garage).

Pocket: I’ve become a Pocket junkie. I clip stories from my browser into this service all day, and then catch up on my reading at night.

The New Yorker: The iPad is a perfect way to read this weekly magazine. No more stacks of unread issues by my bed. No more guilt/shame about not reading every page of every issue.

One noticeable exclusion from my list of frequently used apps is the iBookstore. I was an Amazon Kindle user long before the iPad, so it’s my bookstore of choice. This said, I don’t read books that much on the iPad—it’s brutal enough on my eyes that I prefer the Kindle Paperwhite for longer reads.

A few other notable exclusions on my iPad: Dropbox, Skype, QuickOffice, and Flipboard. Feel free to drop your heavy rotation (and surprisingly not-so-heavy) apps into the comments section below. 

This week’s winner: Microsoft

It’s premature to say that Microsoft’s very public reorganization is a winner, but one thing is clear: Devices and services now rule the day in Redmond, and the Windows operating system is in its rightful place—at the center of everything.

Both strategic pivots feel like a step in the right direction.  “We will design, create and deliver through us and through third parties a complete family of Windows-powered devices,” Ballmer said in a conference call supporting the reorganization.

In reality, this shift is going to take some time. For the non-gaming portions of the company, the notion that Microsoft is committing to making more devices itself is a bold step—it’s out of line with the company’s previous emphasis on delivering software-based solutions to a wide range of partners.

But gamers have seen firsthand what Microsoft has been able to accomplish on the hardware creation front. Microsoft may have botched the initial announcements of Xbox One, but the company has grown its gaming platform from nothing to a dominant gaming ecosystem in under 15 years.

Also important on the re-org front: The media picked up Microsoft’s message loud and clear, with no uncertainty whatsoever. Microsoft did a nice job communicating this, even if the reception to the news wasn't entirely positive

Not-so-close-but-also-important runner-up to this week’s winner: PC World magazine, which early this week announced that the August issue is going to be the last print edition of PC World in the United States. Welcome to the digital-only party, PC World—and the increased margins that come with it.

This week’s loser: PC manufactures

The outlook continues to worsen for laptop and desktop manufacturers. Not only is it beginning to appear likely that Microsoft will continue to encroach on OEM’s turf from a hardware/device perspective, but the recent number around laptop shipments for 2013 was abysmal.

Earlier in the week, research firm HIS issued a report stating that worldwide shipments of mobile PCs fell by 6.9% in the second quarter of 2013 compared with the first quarter (which wasn’t that great either). This is the first time the PC industry has seen a sequential drop in shipments since 2002.

By the way, this hurts Microsoft also, which further explains the fairly dramatic steps the company is taking to tack into the wind here. 

Possible runner up here: Consumers who are holding off on buying an iPad Mini because they want to wait for a Retina Display model. Rumors coming out of Taiwan now indicate we may be have to wait until 2014 for such a product.


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