Five ways the App Store will change the world

Mike Schramm
M. Schramm|07.11.08

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Five ways the App Store will change the world
There are historic days, people. The App Store went live, and all of a sudden, we're drowning in new things for the iPhone. But it's not just a big deal for iPhone owners -- this is a huge day for society and technology in general. While there have been lots of PDAs, and lots of apps to run on them, there's never been anything like the App Store before -- here's five ways that Apple's platform for iPhone application distribution will change our world.

1. Ubiquitous computing.

Any science fiction writer will tell you that we're already living the future -- we can teleport things, robots are easy to make, and almost anything dreamed of can be done if you have enough money to do it. But a technology really doesn't move from fantasy to reality until it's everywhere, and thanks to the iPhone 3G, computing has become just that. You can't take a laptop around with you all the time (as in, to a fancy restaurant or to the movies) to edit photos or post to your blog, but you can bring the iPhone. It's the ultimate ultramobile platform, and it's now cheap enough to be everywhere, and powerful enough that almost any common computing task can be done.

Four more huge changes after the jump.

2. Connectivity.

This will only get better, of course, but 3G is a nice step forward, and as Apple showed us, every app on the iPhone can stay in touch and stay connected. And the mere fact that we now have the Internet (not a mobile form of it, the actual Internet) in our pockets at all times has already changed our world. Everyone who owns an iPhone has had "an iPhone moment" already -- just the other day, the bartender couldn't remember how to make a drink my friend wanted to order, so I looked it up and immediately had the recipe. That's what constant connectivity means -- it's been possible before, but the iPhone makes knowing anything the Internet knows in minutes really easy, and applications that stay connected make it even easier.

(Unless it's in Flash, of course, but we'll get there.)

3. Location awareness.

Until now, consumer GPS has been for cars and geocachers. But no more -- every iPhone 3G knows exactly where it is, and any app in the App Store can make use of that information. That opens up all kinds of new ways to use that data, most of which we haven't even thought of yet. Mobile computing is fun, but mobile computing that already knows where it is makes a lot more possible, and not only will that mean we'll see amazing implementations on the iPhone (games that keep track of other players in the real world, or apps that can track your daily movement), but we'll see other mobile platforms push for location awareness as well.

4. Development and distribution.

Think of the way the iTunes music store has changed music sales. That's potentially what the App Store will do to application sales and distribution. There are still other channels, of course, as there always should be. But as a clearinghouse for cheap applications from almost anyone, delivered directly to the hardware itself, the App Store is a dream, both for people selling software, and people using it. Of course, we don't know yet what the future will hold, and we're still not 100% clear about how applications get approved and listed on the store. But if Apple keeps it as open as possible and lets developers stay at their best, it'll potentially be a model for all kinds of software distribution, mobile or otherwise.

5. User interface and controls.

Remember the hubbub when you saw your first multitouch demo? There is now a $199 multitouch device on the market, and it happens to be portable, attached to an accelerometer, a microphone and speaker, and a camera. Already, Apple has brought multitouch improvements back to the Mac and this is only the beginning -- there's no doubt at all that "killer app" multitouch applications on the iPhone will make hardware manufacturers everywhere push to enable the same abilities on their devices. The first generation of iPhone software, that we've seen today, is more or less remakes of the old generation of mobile applications -- old utilities pushed into a new interface. But in the coming months, we'll see these innovative controls used in more interesting and incredible ways than we can even imagine.

On the face of it, the App Store brings a lot of things that already existed together -- we've already had smartphones and PDAs, and applications like those on the App Store to run on them. There have already been distribution platforms, like Steam and Xbox Live, to provide a developer to customer solution. And of course the Internet has been mobile for a few years now. But what Apple's done here has combined all of the innovations that have come before, and turned them into a streamlined, easy process, from moment of development to end-user sale. The way this software is sold and works on the iPhone 3G will undoubtedly change computing as we know it.
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