Is Apple’s “Top-Down” App Store Really a Barrier to Innovation?

by on October 8, 2009 · 8 comments

Over at his new blog, our old TLF colleague Tim Lee has an interesting post up about “The Problem with Top-Down ‘App Stores’” in which he argues that “when app store approval becomes mandatory, it becomes a major impediment to the success of high-tech platforms.”  But I have to wonder if the facts support that assertion. Here’s how I commented on his site:

Tim… What I don’t hear you articulating here is your vision of what a “bottom-up” app store would look like and why it would really produce vastly superior results. Nor do I hear you saying anything about the legitimate concerns that the handset makers might have about the security or stability factors associated with certain applications. I’m not saying those problems are extensive, but at the margins they could be real depending on the nature of the program and how it interacts with the handset and/or network.

Second, there needs to be some sense of proportionality here, at least about the iPhone (I can’t speak for the Palm experience). In just a little over a year, there’s been 2 billion downloads of over 85,000 apps from over 125,000 developers. So, when you talk about Apple’s approval process being “plagued by.. problems” and “rejections for trivial or non-sensical reasons” and “long delays in the review process have become a staple of the tech blogosphere” I think you are giving the impression that this is somehow the norm when it is very much the exception to the rule. Perhaps you would be willing to itemize the examples for us. Once you do, I’d appreciate you doing the math on what that looks like as a percentage of the total 85,000 apps that are already out there on the market today. I am willing to bet the result is something like 0.000001%.

Again, a sense of proportionality is really key here. While I am not an Apple fan and agree they have a bit too much of a control streak for my tastes, it’s hard to argue with results. In this case, a closed, top-down system has produced some fairly spectacular results.

I’m sure Tim will have more to say so head over to his blog for more discussion.

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