Book Preview: Mobilize by Rana June Sobhany

January 13, 2011

2:14 am

New mobile apps are popping up everyday, almost as fast as websites did during the first Internet revolution. If you are developing a mobile app how do you stand out in the crowd? This is a question that developers, designers and marketers are faced with. Obviously, it all starts with the app itself. If your app is not interesting it will be difficult to get anyone to use it. A new book called Mobilize by Rana June Sobhany launched earlier this week, sharing techniques on how to sell your app to an audience hungry for the next big thing.

As a former D.C. resident, we’ve known author Rana June Sobhany for awhile, as she attended many of our first Tech Cocktail D.C. mixer events back in 2008. She has since moved to New York where she co-founded Medialets one of the largest in-application mobile analytics and advertising platforms. She has also coached mobile application developers at every level: individual developers, independent development shops, creative and media buying agencies, and large, venture-backed application firms.

We are excited about her recent book launch and the opportunity to be able to share this sneak preview of the first chapter of the book. If you like what you see, be sure to order Mobilize from Amazon or grab the Kindle version today.  

The App Landscape
by Rana June Sobhany

What are your favorite apps?

Ask someone this question two years ago and you’d most likely have been met with stunned silence.

Apps?

What are those?

Today iPhone and iPad applications have become deeply integrated into the way we socialize, run our businesses, schedule appointments, and entertain ourselves. Our mobile phones have become flashlights, tip calculators, and karaoke machines. We use our iPhones to find out what song is being played on the radio, check sports scores and stock prices, buy movie tickets, and remotely access our desktop computers and servers.

The term “app” has become incorporated into our mainstream lexicon to describe any manner of portable software. Apps have also become a currency of cool, icebreakers when engaging in new conversations, and a metric by which someone’s priorities are measured.

There’s actually a lot you can tell about a person by his or her application preferences.

• Does he have seven pages of apps but hardly uses any of them?
• Does she focus the screen of her iPhone only on her favorites?

Imagine the personality tests that could be developed from these penchants!

The iPhone itself is an amazing device. It was the first widely distributed, mass-market pocket computer—not only a phone but also a camera, a video recorder, a media player, a global positioning system (GPS) navigator, a remote control, and a gateway to email and Internet browsing, all as part of its standard functionality. Every aspect of the iPhone is built for power, style, and utility.

Most important, users love to use their iPhones. They love to talk about their iPhones. They love buying cases and add-ons for their devices and defending their choices to naysayers. They will eagerly wait in line for hours to pay Apple for the privilege of owning one.

And one fact remains true about how the phone became the powerhouse it is today . . .

The Killer App Is the App Store Itself

The phone’s appeal initially centered around the high-end consumers who were willing to pay $599 for a mobile phone and then brag about it. For them, this object represented the pinnacle of great design; owning an iPhone signified they were capable of appreciating the genius of a device that incorporated a full-featured Web browser, GPS, and all the entertainment of an iPod into a shiny smartphone.

Then as Apple lowered the price and the iPhone began to reach a mainstream audience, the intrigue shifted. The potential emerged for running third-party software that leveraged all the capabilities of the device.

This led to a pivotal day.

Even before the App Store opened for business, Apple had been training users to trust the iTunes Music Store that had opened in 2003. Consumers weren’t afraid to hit the one-click “buy now” button in the App Store because they’d already been using it to buy digital music. Apple licenses from Amazon the one-click technology that makes it hugely convenient to impulse buy.2 For the better part of a decade users’ credit card information has been stored and accessed via one-click. Consumers’ innate familiarity with this app distribution mechanism gives Apple a competitive advantage no other platform enjoys.

The launch of the App Store on July 11, 2008, enabled iPhone and iPod Touch users to browse, purchase, and download five hundred different applications onto their devices. They reached these apps via a beautifully designed icon conveniently located on the home screen. The launch of the store opened the floodgates for consumers to experience hundreds of independently created applications that catered to many different audiences, for business and pleasure, and for any age group.

They could not get enough, downloading over 10 million applications within the first seventy-two hours.3 This is the point at which the iPhone became remarkable.

The secondary consequence of the creation of such a robust platform for discovering, downloading, and paying for these applications is that now there really is “an app for that”—Apple’s brilliant catchphrase for their App Store campaign. Users know that if they want great content for the Apple hardware, they can rely on Apple software to deliver what they want at the touch of an icon.

A Closed Environment

One of the reasons Apple has been so successful with its product line is that while most digital platforms have shifted to become more open, Apple has remained steadfast around the principle of maintaining a closed platform environment, both for developing applications and for distributing them through the App Store. While this has led to some dissatisfaction and confusion surrounding the rigid and clandestine rules inherent to the application approval system, it also gives Apple full control over the content, design principles, and quality of the applications delivered through their platform.

This makes sense when you think about it on a broad scale and from a consumer’s perspective. Whether they know it or not, when consumers download software or music via iTunes, there’s a certain quality and aesthetic that permeates the experience. If software were made available through the store that did not live up to this expectation, it would reflect poorly on Apple, not the third-party application developer. And whether you as a developer like it or not, most consumers don’t really care who built the application they’ve purchased, as long as it serves the purpose for which they bought it.

One of the world’s foremost experts on all things Apple and iPhone is Brian X. Chen, formerly of Macworld magazine and currently of Wired.com.

“The iPhone is a closed device running an operating system that is exclusive to the iPhone and the phoneless iPod Touch,” Chen notes.

The major benefit of that is the iPhone has an actual platform—a single immaculate environment for application developers to code in, and a clear audience to target. Other smartphone manufacturers have a messy situation they call “platforms.”

With Windows Mobile, for example. Microsoft created a mobile OS that would be shipped with several different types of smartphones made by various companies. Some call this “splintering,” others call it “hardware fragmentation.” Call it what you will—a complex hardware ecosystem makes it more difficult for mobile developers to sell their apps.

A developer will code an app for an HTC phone, for example, and it’s a hot seller there, but maybe only a million of these HTC phones sold last quarter. And then another “hit” smartphone is released, and the developer has to code yet another version of his or her app for another audience of a million or so. That’s a lot of work—not to mention digital property—to maintain.

From a developer perspective, it’s been economically advantageous to program for the iPhone, despite Apple’s questionable and inconsistent approval policy. There’s an element of risk with either route, but you’re placing a stiff bet in a single circle for Apple, as opposed to spreading smaller bets over multiple circles for other “platforms” such as Windows Mobile or Google Android.4

The Mac Developer Community and Culture

One of the defining differences between the iPhone and every other mobile platform is the immediate influx of incredibly well-designed and well-executed applications built atop its platform from day one. One explanation for this is the existing community of passionate Mac developers.

The Mac development community is highly concerned with quality and design, and this may have been one of the driving factors for the first generation of apps built for the platform, even before Apple released the iPhone SDK (software development kit). The indie developer community is tight knit, to the point that competitors often share code with one another in the interest of driving the entire group forward.

“I think Mac developers have brought a certain design sense as well as API [application programming interface] knowledge that allowed them to create complex apps since the App Store opened,” iPhone developer Lucius Kwok comments.

On the other hand, some of them may cling to old ways of marketing and selling their apps, and that has kept them back.

“Cocoa” is one of Apple’s application program environments available for Mac OS X, enabling developers to develop apps using tools provided by Apple and other third parties.

The Cocoa API is incredibly complex and it would take at least a year to learn all the nuances of delegation, memory management, and other details. Without this base of experience, the first apps would have been very limited or would have crashed a lot, but instead we had quality apps from day one.5

The Business Insider’s Dan Frommer agrees, and notes the advantages inherent to Cocoa:

I think the Mac developer community has been a huge influence on the iPhone. For technical reasons, developers’ familiarity with Cocoa; for practical reasons, they already had Macs, which are required for iPhone development; and for spiritual reasons, they were already Apple lovers. Because of that familiarity, they’ve really cranked up the quality on iPhone apps—look at publishers like the Iconfactory, Pangea, etc.

Although they’re probably the loudest whiners when Apple goofs something up, too.6

But not all Mac developers feel that the existing community contributed to the success of the App Store. Wil Shipley, founder of two of the most successful indie Mac software companies—Omni Group and Delicious Monster Software—believes that the App Store was so significant on its own that entrepreneurial developers were drawn to the opportunities.

“Certainly Cocoa programmers were hacking apart the iPhone from before the SDK came out, but it appeared the Linux guys were just as active, even then,” Shipley explains.

When the iPhone SDK came out with the App Store, we saw a huge influx of ex-Windows developers. For example, the number of people attending WWDC [the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference] went up by a huge percentage—around 50 percent—in the next two years, and it started selling out for the first time ever.

More tellingly, when Apple did surveys of WWDC attendees, they found the greatest percentage of people new to the Cocoa platform even after the iPhone SDK came out.7

Unique Device Identification

Each iPhone has a proprietary unique device identifier,8 also known as a UDID, assigned to it. This is one of the most pivotal features of the iPhone from a development standpoint. Unlike other mobile platforms, the iPhone platform gives developers access to the unique code assigned to each iPhone shipped out into the wild.

With the ability to identify specific devices, developers can install analytics into their applications. This then allows them to derive metrics from their applications and understand usage patterns, something that has been exceptionally difficult to do on other mobile platforms.

In addition, iPhone developers can send messages specifically to users who have or haven’t taken an action. For example, if you can identify via UDID that a user has downloaded three of your applications and not the fourth, you can set up a prompt to pop up an ad driving the user to install the remaining app.

It’s not just the iPhone though. All iPod Touches support application download and usage. So we’re looking at more than 50 million devices worldwide whose owners might become your customers.

Not too shabby.

Keep in mind that as of 2010 we’re only two years into this platform and that the iPhone is still limited to a few carriers (wireless service providers) globally. (We’re not taking jailbroken or unlocked phones into consideration here. Sorry, hackers.)

The future of measurement and metrics on the iPhone platform is up in the air, though. During D8 (Developing 8), the AllThingsD–sponsored conference devoted to media and technology, Steve Jobs publicly announced that he was opposed to the third-party measurement companies revealing data about new Apple products before the products were announced by Apple.

Jobs did, however, express that he wasn’t against companies using analytics data to measure ads. It’s unclear whether or not Apple is working to create a toolkit embedded in the SDK that would enable metric analysis of app usage. But Apple would be missing a huge opportunity by not pursuing this, and it will be some time before we see the last word on this topic.

The iPhone as a Gaming Platform

One of the early polarizing debates about the iPhone was whether or not it could become a serious gaming platform. On one hand, mobile phone gaming had always been popular among consumers and had consistently been a huge revenue driver for carriers and mobile app developers. On the other hand, incumbent handheld game consoles such as Nintendo’s DS and Sony’s PSP had had many years to build up passionate user bases and loyal followings.

Yet the rise of the iPhone and iPod Touch has led to a new generation of app users. Unlike players using the DS and the PSP, gamers can download new games with the touch of an app icon, wherever they are.

Developing games for iPhone is very different from developing for other mobile devices. And because there is only one form factor for which to build, it makes sense for game developers to focus their efforts on creating games for the iPhone platform. Developers are able to create robust, beautifully designed games at a fraction of the time and cost of console games. Although the iPhone’s retail price is significantly lower, the volume of downloads is high enough to be very compelling to indie developers.

Compared to other handheld gaming devices, the iPhone offers some interesting features that make gaming on this platform arguably more engaging, including geolocation, Internet connectivity, Bluetooth, and touchscreen inputs. While iPhone games are not as rich as many console games, Apple and iPhone developers are working hard to close that gap. Developers have even started to create open-source frameworks and toolkits in order to drive the industry forward and provide access to anyone who wants to build an iPhone game.

Of course, the iPhone wasn’t the first device to include such features, but it certainly was the first to combine them in a way that makes it compelling for consumers to continuously purchase content. Because the primary function of the iPhone is to be . . . well . . . a phone, users carry the device with them at all times. This is a different modality than carrying around a designated portable gaming console (not to mention a mobile phone, a camera, a video camera, a pedometer, and so on). The iPhone is lighter, more portable, and always readily available because it’s always with you.

The trick to creating a winning iPhone game has been creating iPhone-specific gameplay, leveraging features such as the multitouch display and motion sensor to create an experience that cannot be replicated by other gaming platforms. The speed and ease of downloading games via the iPhone’s App Store makes it very easy to spend hours and hours getting lost in the gaming experience. The accelerometer and multitouch display make it engrossing in a way other portable gaming consoles haven’t even experimented with.

The iPhone has single-handedly caused an evolution in gaming, and consumers are hooked. Plus, gaming has become even more fun with the introduction of features in iPhone OS 3.0, such as peer-to-peer connection and in-app commerce. As Apple continues to make better iPhone hardware and software, developers will continue to make iPhone a preferred platform for which to develop product.

But to lend some perspective, the DS franchise has shipped more than 100 million units and the PSP more than 50 million since both came to market in late 2004,9 according to a report published in April 2009 by Gabriel Madway of Reuters. Yet even with the significantly higher market share by Nintendo and Sony, iPhone’s App Store has already surpassed the DS and PSP in terms of game titles available. When the App Store was just three months old, it offered 1,500 games, while the PSP and DS had about 600 and 300 titles, respectively.10

Other companies like Electronic Arts, Sega, and Gameloft are taking the iPhone seriously as a competitor, shifting their attention and dollars to the iPhone platform. Early 2009 brought with it rumblings of a section of the App Store devoted to selling “premium” games.11 Priced at $19.99, they would feature higher production quality and more in-depth gameplay; they could attract these high-end gaming companies to the iPhone and make it feasible for them to create business units around the Apple platform.

Still, the question remains: is the iPhone a viable gaming platform?

“Without a doubt,” iPhone guru Dan Frommer, deputy editor of the Business Insider, states.

It has already prevented me from buying a Sony PSP and Nintendo DS. The most obvious area where it can dominate mobile gaming is casual games. It has better casual games than any other platform—better design, better discovery and installation, and better user interfaces.

And compared the higher-end systems?

It’s also becoming a really cool platform for advanced games, due to several functions working in tandem: High-end graphics, unique interfaces such as multitouch and motion-sensor/accelerometer, easy in-game payments for virtual goods, and always-on Internet for social and network gaming.

I can’t stress enough how important the iPod touch has been for the development of the iPhone OS as a gaming platform. It’s nearly doubled the overall user base, and has brought the platform into younger, more-game-hungry demographics much faster than it would have if it were just the $70/month iPhone.12

And the advent of the iPad is just going to accelerate the development that’s already occurring. Though it works in much the same way as the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad’s larger screen is going to increase the appeal, and persons who are using this new device for their book and film libraries are going to want to keep their games just as available for anytime use. The increased resolution will allow developers to create much more robust gaming experiences with the advantage of also pulling in features such as the accelerometer. In some ways, this could yield an even richer experience than what’s available on the desktop.

Add to that the fact that there are many emerging companies focusing exclusively on enhancing the gaming experience of the iPhone. They are creating add-on apparatuses such as external speakers and game controllers to make it more comfortable to game for extended periods of time.

From the very beginning of the App Store, the largest category has consistently been games, averaging between 15 to 30 percent of applications available for download at any given time.13 Even before the App Store was launched, the most sophisticated and well-designed applications for the iPhone were games. One pre-SDK iPhone game in particular, Raging Thunder, inspired a generation of iPhone developers around the possibilities and robustness of mobile gaming.

But there are some shortcomings not yet resolved in the current iPhone hardware, including limited processor and graphic capabilities and insufficient memory management. The iPhone is, as the saying goes, a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

In April 2008, Apple acquired P.A. Semi, a company that manufactures semiconductors such as the ARM chips that will make future iPhones much better gaming machines than they are today, by incorporating enhanced graphics and more powerful processing capabilities. Of course, battery life has been a consistent challenge for all mobile handset manufacturers, but with the advent of the unibody MacBook Pro, analysts believe that Apple is working to create a battery that will overcome the strain of hours of heavy application usage.14 And the iPhone 4 is already showing signs that the battery life of the device is improving, which is great news for game developers and players.

Growing Pains

As early as July 2007—a full year before the App Store launched—developers were building and deploying applications that leveraged all the amazing capabilities of the iPhone. There were incredible 3D racing games, guitar emulators, and VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) applications, all available for free to anyone brave enough to jailbreak their precious iPhone. This covert activity inspired a new wave of developers to examine the possibility of creating software for a mobile platform.

Historically, development for mobile phones has been a long and arduous process, with carriers acting as gatekeepers and success measured by getting “on-deck”—carrierspeak for preinstallation of software on phones before they are activated by consumers. This is a very important distinction, and one that gives iPhone a significant advantage over any other mobile platform to date.

Apple was able to disintermediate the carriers.

For nearly two decades, the opportunity to create and distribute applications at scale on mobile phones had been controlled by the carriers and communications service providers. Pre–App Store, app distribution was excruciatingly difficult for independent developers. Putting aside all the multiple development environments and handset portability issues, in order for developers to get any real scale they needed to secure distribution on the major carrier Web portals (“decks”).

On the surface this meant lengthy, overly complex, and often litigious negotiations with each carrier on a one-off basis, while behind the scenes the issues governing these deals ended up frustrating even the savviest of salesmen.

Wireless carriers became paralyzed by an identity crisis that in most cases continues to this day. Recognizing that their bread-and-butter, voice telephony services had quickly become commoditized, they struggled to find a suitable replacement on their balance sheets. Not wanting to repeat the mistakes made by the Internet service providers (ISPs)—early winners, then losers, in the Internet revenue pie—the carriers descended into a full-throated embrace of subscription services and/or à la carte pricing models for everything from horoscopes to navigation apps.

For developers attempting free-to-consumer or ad-funded models, this posed an exceptionally difficult challenge. From the carrier perspective, they viewed any “free” app as a direct threat to the “pay-to-play” culture they were just beginning to cultivate in the mobile app space. In their view, they had just finished teaching consumers that in the mobile world—as opposed to online—things cost money, and it didn’t matter how much ad revenue the app developer proposed to share with the carriers in exchange for distribution. App-based subscription revenues were dependable and growing, two things Wall Street just loves.

Why risk it all on something as flakey as advertising?

When app developers were lucky enough to get a meeting, the rules they were handed were almost always the same:

• A dictated price point
• A 30%–50% revenue share with the carrier
• A healthy up-front commitment (read: “big cash payment”)
• Exclusivity
• Dedicated marketing support (read: “another big pile of cash”)
• And a “we’ll get back to you” (read: “after we talk to your competitors”)

Is it any wonder then that the App Store was such a hit with developers? The tales of woe were everywhere.

“My company built J2ME applications for Samsung phones, pre–App Store,” recounts Peter Lee, an experienced mobile developer who is currently developing Google-acquired Aardvark’s iPhone application.

Very bad emulators. Pretty much useless. We had to debug on real phones all the time. Screen sizes are different from phone to phone, so there was lots of screen re-layout. Animations were hard to do. The devices were very limited in memory, so memory management is even harder.15

Yet even the rise of the Apple model came with its own detractors. Shazam’s former VP of Business Development Kathleen McMahon explains:

Many developers who came from an Internet pedigree found fault with Apple and the App Store. They were annoyed at delays in the review process, that there was a review process full stop. They were used to hitting one button and, voilà, a Web-style iteration would be instantaneously live. Anyone who lived through the years of “mobile development”—pre–App stores—however, understands the painful slog of yesteryear mobile development: designing for specific devices, platform specification, limitations with the hardware, lack of access, deeper layer of software, different screen size, etc. It was painful, slow, and resource intensive.16

Thus for many, besides being incredibly easy to deploy an application at scale, compared to the mobile carriers, working with Apple is a dream come true.

“People complain about Apple’s $99 Dev program,” Lee says.

But we have to pay [Internet infrastructure company] Verisign $399/year for a code signing certificate. Apple’s Dev program comes with lots of other support. We had a deal for bundled distribution, so our app got to consumers’ hands, but that took us close to one year for one app. With Apple’s App Store, I delivered seven apps in less than a year.17

Large developers like Shazam particularly benefitted from the ease of releasing applications into Apple’s application ecosystem.

“The iPhone SDK removed the pain of development,” Shazam’s McMahon explains.

We had deployed Shazam on AT&T, branded as MusicID at the time, and users loved to show off the magic of music recognition. But then their friend might say, “Oh cool, how do I get it?” and the answer was not so simple. Apple made it simple. Not only did Apple provide us with a place to point users to go get it, at the same time that Apple unleashed the creativity of the developer community. Apple worked their own marketing message to put the user’s mindset in the mode of thinking, “Gee, I wonder if there’s an app for x, y, z?” The problem-solving paradigm shift from “How do I get it?” morphed into the now iconic “There’s an App for that.”18

Additionally, due to Apple’s sudden shake up of the mobile application space, carriers and handset manufacturers have experienced a surge of interest in mobile apps and app stores (lowercase, of course, when they’re not Apple). And yet, carriers have suddenly been yanked from their position of power and dictatorship and relegated to follow Apple’s lead. They are now pipe providers, acting as little more than the conduit between the content service provider and the consumer.

While there may be an opportunity to create a scalable business around being a pipe provider, most carriers are reluctant to give up control to a third party. However, in order to maintain control over the ecosystem, carriers and content providers must put infrastructure in place, in order to execute a successful app store strategy—and it is increasingly difficult to justify the spend and resources needed to set up and maintain this framework.

Herein lies the opportunity for entrepreneurial mobile developers to create a real business on the iPhone platform.

App Store 1.0: 10,000,000 Downloads

On July 10, 2008, the day the App Store opened for business, Steve Jobs told Jefferson Graham of USA Today that it would launch with 500 applications designed for the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Of the initial 500, 125 applications would be free downloads. (This is a very significant number and will be further discussed in the next chapter.)

Initially, any software built for the iPhone and iPod Touch was referred to as a “third-party application,” which in Apple-speak was fundamentally a hedge. In essence it was Apple’s attempt to distance itself from these potentially pernicious programs, and as consumers and developers became more comfortable with the platform, “apps” became common nomenclature.

The App Store enabled users to buy applications and transfer them to an iPhone or iPod Touch with the iPhone 2.0 software update, which became available through iTunes on the same day. The applications that launched on the platform ranged from business to game applications, entertainment to educational applications, and many more applications available for free or for sale.

The iPhone 3G, released on July 11, 2008, marked a quantum leap in the capabilities of the device, but not particularly on the hardware side. The new operating system, iPhone 2.0, flipped the switch and enabled users to download and access applications from the App Store.

While there was a significant amount of data suggesting that sales of the new iPhone 3G would be high—augmented by the sight of droves of fans lined up outside Apple, some even camping out overnight—Apple did not or could not anticipate the astounding popularity of the App Store. Up to that moment, it had garnered a great deal of success from being tightly controlled and quality driven. But consumers voted with their attention, and App Store sales reflected an overwhelmingly positive response to consumers’ ability to download additional content to their iPhones and iPod Touches.

Ten million applications were downloaded the first weekend. This was staggering to analysts, competitors, and developers alike.

In the month before and the month after the launch of the App Store, I reached out to top iPhone developers and indies alike. I quickly discovered that not one developer I spoke with was actively interested in mobile application analytics—the type of tracking tool that allows developers and sales professionals to understand usage and user patterns. This was especially perplexing to me because I knew that monetization opportunities could arise from having a deep and meaningful understanding of what users liked about applications and how they chose to spend their time engaged with them.

This was a free tool, and yet no one was interested!

The people who were interested were drawn in by the price point (free) and really nothing else. These developers weren’t thinking about the future of their apps, they were experimenting with a new platform and did not intend to build scalable businesses. For the most part, developers just wanted to build cool stuff.

But everything changed around the end of July 2008. Suddenly individual developers had built applications that had been downloaded 50,000 times.

My phone started ringing off the hook.

“Ohmigod. What are we going to do now?!”

Developers at all skill and experience levels had realized that Apple was providing little more than download figures from customers. There were no purchasing patterns or spending habits. There weren’t even engagement times listed—how many minutes a user spent using an application.

This was unsettling to developers who now realized how useful that data would be to them in creating businesses around their applications.

And just like that, Apple reached 1 billion downloads after only nine months in existence.19

App Store 2.0: From 1 to 2 Billion Downloads

On July 11, 2009, the one-year anniversary of the App Store, Apple announced that its store had achieved 1.5 billion downloaded applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. In a press release, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, “The App Store is like nothing the industry has ever seen before in both scale and quality. With 1.5 billion apps downloaded, it is going to be very hard for others to catch up.”20

Interestingly, the rate at which customers were downloading apps increased between the milestones of 1 billion and 2 billion downloads.21

Meanwhile, Apple’s success at attracting developers to its development platform caused a sudden rush by every potential competitor imaginable to attempt to mimic the model. Verizon, Nokia, Microsoft, Google, RIM, and Palm announced development platforms and app stores overnight, all with cute and catchy names. (Except for “BlackBerry App World”—I don’t know what they were thinking there. It sounds like an amusement park to me.)

But as other carriers scrambled to catch up, Apple’s lead only strengthened.

Savvy developers emerged as clear experts in the field of creating and selling iPhone applications. Veterans of a year-and-a-half-old industry, they began to shape the culture of the App Store, whether they were qualified to do so or not.

During App Store 1.0 many developers were just trying to find out what attracted customers and what was and wasn’t working. The residue from these experiments began to color the quality of the App Store. “Fluff apps” saturated the market, and suddenly there was an abundance of $0.99 apps that were of low-value, in terms of both function and design.

Nevertheless, while it had taken Steve Jobs’s last big idea—the iPod—four years to become the standard for portable media playing devices, the App Store achieved its benchmark status among mobile application distribution systems in fourteen months. Jobs’s belief in the potential of allowing outside developers to develop software for Apple hardware seemed to have been vindicated.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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