What if You Forced Apple into the App Store?

The Architecture of Reassurance

If you’ll recall, back when the iPhone was first released, Steve Jobs declared the best way to build apps for it was to build websites.

To which John Gruber replied:

“If all you have to offer is a shit sandwich, just say it. Don’t tell us how lucky we are and that it’s going to taste delicious.”

Since then, Apple released the App Store, an iPhone Developers SDK, and has made “there’s an app for that” so popular it became its own meme.

And despite Apple’s restrictions – the $99 Developer registration fee, faxing your business incorporation agreements to sell as a business, only using Objective-C and Apple development tools, Apple needs to accept your app & subsequent updates – there’s huge demand for building native applications in the iPhone.

But there’s big money to be made selling native apps! Well, maybe [1].

All of Apple’s restrictions are disincentives to build native apps.

And I’m confident Apple knows it and is encouraging it.

If you’ve spent enough time within the iPhone (or iPad, iPod Touch) you’ll notice some very interesting inconsistencies between how native apps behave (especially Apple’s own) in contrast to Safari. Inconsistencies that make me think Apple would still prefer you just built web sites.

The biggest example:

  1. Load up a web page within Safari
  2. Click ‘+’
  3. Now click ‘Add to Home Screen’

You just put an item (a web page) that lives in Safari on your iPhone’s home screen.

If the web site publisher included <meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes" /> in the header of the web page, it will display full-screen when you click it. Just like a native app.

Now, load up Music, Videos, Photos, Mail, or Maps and figure out how to put one of the items on your home screen.

Yeah, weird, huh?

Makes complete makes sense if Steve Jobs is true to his word – the best app for the iPhone is web-based one rather than native.

There’s no downside to releasing an SDK with all its restrictions and taking developers’ money. At worst Objective-C receives more attention, few more Macs are sold as development boxes, and the membership fees pay to keep Apple’s crazy restrictions in place.

Notice as well, that Apple still permits Javascript-based apps in their App Store.

It’s like we can’t take a hint.

1. In a recent survey of 100 iPhone developers:

33% earned of less than $250
52% earned less than $15,000
2%, $15,001-$50,000
1%, $50,001-$100,000
1%, $100,001-$250,000
1%, $500,001-$2,000,000

“But app developers want to make money, and Apple benefits most when they don’t. – Andrew Benton”

“Half of all [iPhone] developers will earn less than $682 per year.” – Tomi T Ahonen

In fact – Apple benefits from little to no app sales in the same way Google benefits from little to no AdWords clicks – no need to pay out.


“Apple is trapped by their original decision to shoulder the cost of free apps. They encouraged free apps and now they’ve got one band-aid on top of another — advertisements, in-app purchase, subscriptions — all trying to make free apps work for the App Store bottom line. ” – Manton Reece

One thought on “What if You Forced Apple into the App Store?

  1. Nice analysis. My initial reaction to the Objective-C flareup was “Oh, I really should just go back to looking at building stuff for these devices as web apps instead”.

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