Missing the Point of App Stores.

Peter-Paul Koch seems to be confusing the drawbacks of Apple’s implementation of an app store with the benefits of the web in general. Just because Apple exercises tight-fisted control and frequently fails to provide adequate discovery features doesn’t mean app stores are going to be replaced by the wilderness of web distribution and the consequent rise of web apps in particular.

Native mobile applications are not going away no matter how good web applications become.1 Centralized access to native applications in the form of stores / markets / what have you are not going away. They provide easy access to updates and consistent meta information like reviews, ratings, descriptions, screenshots, authors, etc. If alternative discovery mechanisms arise and web apps become more popular as I suspect will happen, wonderful. The competition should only increase the quality of the app stores. To argue, however, that app stores have flaws ergo app stores will be replaced by web apps is to ignore the reality that web apps have yet to actually solve the app store problems and even when they do will still be confronted with problems entirely of their own. The most logical outcome is, yes, a proliferation of web apps but not necessarily at the expense of native apps.2

  1. I’m a proponent of the web stack of technology, and I’m fully aware that if it has access to hardware APIs like webOS provided, it could essentially function as a native app. The majority of the argument regarding web v. native is semantic and determined by the arbitrary decisions promoting one language and framework over another. If web apps ever reach their true potential, it will be because handset makers empower it to use all of the device’s capabilities. []
  2. Not that I’m holding my breath for other app distributors to grasp the key principles behind Apple’s success. Apple may well be the only company to ever profit from an app store directly. To repeat, that does not invalidate the concept. We’ll see what Amazon, Microsoft, and alternate tablet / phone operating systems like webOS and BlackBerry can do. []