With today's pending launch of the iPhone on Verizon, beyond the hardware windfall for Apple, there is a little golden nugget that comes with each phone sold: the App store. As the iPhone continues to land in more hands both in the US and around the world, the software sales generated by the App store will mean big bucks both for Apple's bottom-line as well as the developers who have applications in the store.
As a matter of fact, just last week Apple took the App store concept to the desktop, and launched the App store for Mac. It's a brilliant concept – a curated centralized destination for the purchase and download of virtually any kind of software a user can imagine. On the mobile devices this made the concept and practice of downloading programs both streamlined and reliable. Prior to the App store concept installing software on a mobile device was a fragmented and disconnected space. On older devices before the iPhone essentially everyone lost; for consumers it was hard to know what would work on what device and platform, while developers were tasked with the challenge of selling their software as there was no easy promotion and distribution network.
However, with the release of the iPhone, it's advanced capabilities, and ease of use there was a new-found opportunity and a natural desire by both users and developers to tap into the power of the iPhone platform. Yet, upon it's initial release Apple did not offer any type of access to the operating system for developers, at first only offering the ability to make icon-styled bookmarks that could live on the home screen. These web apps, as Apple branded them, offered limited functionality in that they could only live in the browser, which left many asking for more. It wasn't until Apple offered the second iteration of their software did the company comply with those requests and offer developers the ability to create native apps.
Now, in retrospect the App store has been genius, and we have all benefited; whether it be as end-users from a usability standpoint, as developers selling Apps, or as Apple providing the infrastructure. That said, the question that I pose is did Apple see this golden opportunity a long time ago and hatch this strategy on a white board in Cupertino, or did Apple simply stumble upon this pot of gold in responding to external pressures after the iPhone launched?