The revolution Steve Jobs resisted: Apple's App Store marks 10 years of third-party innova...

in iOS edited July 2018
The first iPhone saw release in 2007 with a fairly barebones selection of apps, none of which were made by outside developers. That changed when Apple opened the gates to developers a year later with iPhone OS 2.0, invigorating a sector and forever changing what it meant to be an "Apple developer."

App Store homepage

The App Store officially launched on July 10, 2008, after it was announced the previous fall; the first software development kit was released in February of 2008.

As Apple demonstrated in an "oral history" it released a few days before the anniversary, the App Store has not only grown exponentially in its ten years of existence, but it's also been at the forefront of all sorts of innovations in technology, culture and entertainment over the course of the decade.

The App Store has helped facilitate major growth in the content streaming revolution, as well as geolocation, e-commerce and even online dating, while also forever changing what it means to be a software developer.

All that, and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was reportedly resistant to the idea at first.

The App Store-free iPhone

When the first-generation iPhone arrived in 2007, it came with apps, but all of them were made by Apple. It had Mail, Safari, iTunes, Photos, Messages, Visual Voicemail, weather, camera, the calendar, the clock, and a few others that were Apple's own, without any non-Apple apps, or user choice for alternative versions.

According to Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs, the tech guru was opposed to allowing third-party to run natively on iPhone -- and when pressured to do so by developers and others, he had a simple answer: Develop your own web apps that will work on the new platform.

"The full Safari engine is inside of iPhone," Jobs said at WWDC in 2007. "And so, you can write amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps that look exactly and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone. And these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, they can send an email, they can look up a location on Google Maps. And guess what? There's no SDK that you need!"

Developers in attendance didn't exactly rise to their feet with roaring applause. Instead, they gave the equivalent of a golf clap, a rare miss for a "Jobsnote."

Watch that video here:

However, after the backlash from developers continued, it soon became clear that keeping native apps out was not tenable for long.

Others in the know disagree with Isaacson's story and contend third-party apps were always on the iPhone roadmap; Jobs and company were simply not comfortable with releasing an SDK at launch.

In any case, web apps came first, with native software to follow. Apple announced the release of an SDK in October of 2007, with the software shipping out to developers the following February.

"Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers' hands in February," Jobs wrote in a letter that October. "We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users."

Jobs, in adding that the SDK would also allow the creation of apps for the iPod Touch, ended the letter by promising that "we think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones." Apple also announced that developers could set the price of their own apps -- including free -- with the devs keeping 70 percent of sales revenues.

The SDK was officially released on March 6, 2008. Less than a week later, Apple announced that the SDK had been downloaded more than 100,000 times in the first four days.

The Store opens

App Store logo for anniversary

Shortly after the iPhone 3G was released, the App Store officially came online on July 10, 2008. There were 500 apps available at launch.

The store was a hit with consumers almost immediately, as it was easy to use and figure out even for less-tech-savvy customers, and it brought life-changing technologies in all sorts of realms.

By early 2009, Apple had released a memorable TV commercial that introduced the phrase "there's an app for that" to the lexicon:

Indeed, the App Store very soon after its launch changed life for its users in all sorts of ways, providing them with apps for fitness, gaming, navigation, book-reading, e-commerce and much more. The live-streaming revolution, with Netflix leading the way, was made possible by App Store apps. And thanks to Tinder and other geolocation-based apps, dating was never the same again.

Changes would come to the Store as time went on. When the iPad and later the Apple Watch came along, apps were part of those as well. Apple introduced in-app subscriptions for the first time in 2011, and a huge redesign debuted in the summer of 2017.

Explosive growth

Ten years ago, the App Store started a revolution that has changed our world. For hundreds of millions of people, in ways too many to count, life is better because "There's an app for that!" Happy 10th birthday, @AppStore!

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook)

There were 500 apps available at the time of launch, a number that would grow to 3,000 by that September and 15,000 by the following January. The growth was exponential in the ensuing years, as the App Store hit 1 million apps in the fall of 2013, and reportedly reached 2 million earlier this year.

Just as the iPhone has grown from a product that didn't exist 11 years ago to something that's a ubiquitous part of life in the 21st century, apps are now an indisputable part of most people's everyday existence.


  • Reply 1 of 8
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,481member
    The App Store also introduced to consumers the idea of exclusively downloading applications that were simple to install and inexpensive, that were unlikely to carry viruses or to create compatibility issues with the device, OS or other applications, and that required no user manual. I’m sure others had done this (or more likely some of this) in one way or another on other platforms, but it wasn’t the standard at the time. 

    As with so many other things, Apple didn’t invent the idea from nothing, but they fundamentally changed the paradigm, making it simple and reliable to buy and install applications that are intuitive and ready to use.
    edited July 2018 Rayz2016watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 8
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,039member
    Apple is good, but to think Steve was not onboard from the beginning it a bit misdirected, apple could not have changed directions and turnout a SDK in a few short months to all of a sudden allow developers to make stand along apps. It was on the road map as the Apple insiders have said. iPhone 1.0 only allow webapps because this was the only way for Apple to keep the phone under wraps and allow them to test developer webapp ideas without needed to give them phones and software ahead of time. Once the product was out in the wild for a period of time allowed apple to release the SDK with not impact to what Apple was planning for the future.
  • Reply 3 of 8
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Apple was smart when they prohibited Developers from trying to sell iPhone software anywhere except in AppStore.

    If not for that, devs could sell their software anywhere they wanted to, and consumers could get software at various prices.  that was not best for Apple. Apple curates the hell out of apps before they sell them. That way, consumers can be certain that the app will improve the consumer's life. Smart!
  • Reply 4 of 8
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 628member
    Everybody involved in the early days of jailbreaking could clearly see major the behind-the-scenes cleanup going on with every single release of the OS. It was clear to all of us after maybe four releases that native applications were coming, Apple just wanted to physically ship the thing before they had the APIs solidified.
  • Reply 5 of 8
    It took me years before I saw the parallel: "App.. Store" & "Apple Store"
  • Reply 6 of 8
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,334member
    Web apps are coming back, look up Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and WebAssembly.
    No new browser required, they run as fast as a native app.
  • Reply 7 of 8
    The idea that Jobs was resistant doesn't ring true because the SDK for iOS 2.0 was released 18 months and 2 days later.  That's not possible without the SDK already being written at the time of the iPhone launch.  Apple was clearly not ready to release the SDK so they didn't tell anyone about it.  Apple just doesn't discuss future plans ever.  The solution at the time of launch was to write Safari web apps.  Of course, Jobs knew about the SDK coming in the future, he just wasn't even going to hint about it. Writing an SDK/API is extremely complex and difficult.  You cannot just wing it.  It has to be perfect or you'll break an enormous number of apps when you change it radically.  They ported the kernel and base from OS X but replaced the GUI with what is now called UIKit because it was entirely touch-based and there was no mouse.

    The last WWDC was rather radical as they discussed the rumors about UIKit on macOS.  That's how they ported the News, Stocks, and Voice Memo apps.  They have yet to release the tools to do this on your own and they said they are coming in 2019.  This is a very rare thing.  Apple really never talks about future tech like that.  But they must have felt it was important to dispel the rumors that were out of control.  UIKit on macOS is a good thing.  It will mean apps like Slack can be ported over so you don't have to use the crappy Electron version.  There are many more developers on iOS than macOS and for them to port an iOS app, re-writing it for AppKit is very difficult.  Porting UIKit to macOS makes a lot of sense.  But it's going to take years for it to potentially replace AppKit.  There is a lot of cruft in AppKit that dates back to NeXTStep/OpenStep.  Replacing it with UIKit over time as it evolves is something I can see happening.  Phasing it in slowly over time so there will only be UIKit and eventually, AppKit will die.  Perhaps with a change from Intel to Apple's custom ARM processors on Macs.  The A11 CPU is very powerful and in future, we may see many cores. A series CPU's with enough power to replace Intel using a fraction of the power.  The A11 is already 10nm's we may see 5nm and 3nm becoming possible in the next several years. What if you had 128 cores in a radical new ARM architecture built at 3nm or even 1nm?  Can you say supercomputer laptop with all-day battery life?  Someday it will be possible.
  • Reply 8 of 8
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,313member
    Web apps are coming back, look up Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and WebAssembly.
    No new browser required, they run as fast as a native app.
    Read the wiki, but this is not as open & shut as you make it sound. The reliance on service workers means pulling everything down over the wire, and via HTTPS, which will never be as fast as having compiled functionality sitting on the device already.

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