But the widespread homage may be premature. Don’t be surprised if the app bandwagon soon hits a dead end. While others rush to set up their own stores, Apple’s gatekeeper model of software distribution is being questioned by developers and industry leaders. The struggles point to the difficulties that other app stores may face, none of which should be a surprise. In the age of the Web, developers can get their programs to end users without anyone intervening, so locked-down software sales will always be going against the grain.
That’s a miscalculation, because the App Store’s true rival isn’t a competing app marketplace. Rather, it’s the open, developer-friendly Web. When Apple rejected Google Latitude, the search company’s nearby-friend-mapping program, developers created a nearly identical version that works perfectly on the iPhone’s Web browser. Google looks to be doing something similar with Voice, another app that Apple barred from its store. Last fall, Joe Hewitt, the Facebook developer who created the social network’s iPhone app, quit developing for Apple in protest of the company’s policies. Where did he go? Back to writing mobile apps for Web browsers.
Underscores the open, developer-friendly Web as key. See this week’s launch of the HTML5 version of Google Voice as a case in point…