Apple Will Finally Have to Fix Fragmentation
Fragmentation in the App Store is a problem already. Even across devices with the same screen size, same core feature set and same product name, you find subtle differences in capability. A first-gen iPhone doesn’t have a compass, so it can’t run augmented reality apps. A second-gen iPod Touch can support mic input, while my first-gen model – purchased just a few months before – can’t. An iPhone 3GS will run a 3D game like N.O.V.A. beautifully, while a regular old 3G struggles to keep a viewable framerate playing Sonic the Hedgehog.
We’ve needed a fix for fragmentation for a while, and hopefully the iPad, being such an obviously distinct device, will give Apple the kick in the arse they need to implement one. The iPad may run all iPhone apps, but the iPhone will not necessarily run all iPad apps, so assuming downloads aren’t required to be packaged together as dual-mode iPad/iPhone apps, there will have to be a way to prevent purchasers from accidentally purchasing something they can’t use at all on their iPhone. An improved, properly segmented App Store storefront or download system is inevitable; we’ll just have to wait and see what it looks like.
Data Will Be Freed
In some iterations, the iPad is a 3G-capable device, and in all, it has a microphone. What it never has is built-in voice capabilities – that is, unless you download them. According to early reports, the new iPad and iPhone SDK has lifted the restriction on voice calls over 3G data (VoIPo3G?). Opening up voice over data services for the iPad could have a larger effect on iPhone apps than on iPad apps, since, you know, they’re for phones.
In-App Purchasing Will Finally Take Off
The iPad will ship with a book store, but what about all those fancy magazines? (Or to adopt their parlance, “WHITHER THE PERIODICAL?”) If print publications were placing their future success in Apple’s hands, Apple’s just handed it right back. Unlike books, which will be sold directly through an iTunes-style storefront and viewed through a common interface, magazines and newspapers will be in charge of selling their own apps, with their own interfaces, and their own business models. But this could turn out to be a good thing.[imgclear]
What’s funny about this is that in-app purchases are still App Store transactions, carried out through the same payment system and with a portion of revenues set aside for Apple. Nothing will change except the packaging, but that alone will be enough to fundamentally change the App Store economy, and how we pay for print content. (Increased dependence on in-app purchases could help stem the tide of piracy as well, but that’s another discussion entirely. Soon!)
Note: Apple may be faced with some resistance in this model, though, since magazine publishers would much rather handle billing themselves, if just for the valuable data they could glean about their subscribers.
“Apps” Will Grow Into “Applications”
Apps are small, they’re simple, they’ve got a short title. They’re like applications, but nuggetised. And that’s fine! We call software on phones by a different name than we call software on PCs, because something about the products feels different. The iPad could bridge that gap.
Of course, these are Apple apps, so you’d expect them to be executed well, and to use Apple’s device to its maximum potential. But with more screen real estate, more power, serious text entry abilities and a more mature SDK at their disposal, the developers are going to give us apps of an entirely new calibre, not just a new size.
Apple Will Rule With an Iron Fist, Or Learn to Let Things Go
With iBooks, Apple is setting itself up for an awkward situation. Apple has strict (if sometimes inscrutable) rules about what types of apps are permitted, mostly concerning appropriateness of content and the safety and stability of the app’s code. The prohibition that always rubbed developers and customers the wrong way, though, is the ban on apps that duplicate the functionality of Apple’s apps, like email clients, new browsers, and by extension, alternative music stores and app stores. These are now joined by iBooks, which is unique in that its actually invading territory inhabited by pre-existing apps, like Amazon’s Kindle app and indie favourites like Stanza. So what does Apple do? Do they purge Kindle and co. from the App Store, or mark ereader apps as incompatible with the iPad? The Kindle app is to iBooks what an Amazon MP3 store app would be to iTunes, all the way down to the competing file formats and DRM systems (iBooks renders a proprietary type of ePub file, while the Kindle sells books in a proprietary AZW format), so even if this would be a terribly dickish thing to do, it’s possible.