It's that time of year again: Snow is in the air, presents are underneath the tree, and Apple is about to shut down the developer's side of App Store for its yearly freeze. The New York Times has done some solid coverage on the shutdown this year, which will start this Thursday, and run for a week and a day after that.
Apps will still be for sale, of course, but developers won't be able to release new apps or updated released apps. Every year, developers have to rush to not only, as the NYT says, get their apps out on the store and available before the freeze, but also to try and get their apps in the top 25 paid and free lists, which is where many post-holiday new iPhone and iPad owners start their app shopping.
Electronic Arts, which the NYT quotes in its piece, has probably been the most public beneficiary of this App Store break -- a few years ago, the company dropped all of its apps on sale to 99 cents in the days before the freeze, which enabled it to grab most of the real estate in the "top apps" lists, and that big bump has even dictated company mobile policy until now.
There's no doubt there is plenty of money to be earned on the App Store this holiday again (and we'll likely see some developers reporting big bumps next week), but I'd suggest that things are changing, soon, if not already. Back in the early days of the App Store, there weren't too many ways to find good apps besides those top 25 lists. But these days, there are a lot more resources, both for users to find the apps they want, and for developers to promote their own apps. So I don't know that we'll see as big an effect from the top 25 lists this year as past year. We'll still see big sales, I'm sure, but I think those will be more spread out than last year.
And of course the App Store freeze has one more benefit for Apple: In addition to allowing the company to do maintenance and updates on the store and its infrastructure, it also allows the review and support staff to take a much-needed break for a few days. We'll have to wait and see how it works out for the company and 3rd-party developers this year.