Less than two weeks ago, the Apple (AAPL) App Store celebrated its sixth anniversary since launching under Steve Jobs in 2008. Since its inception, the App Store has racked up over 75 billion downloads, and hosts over 1.2 million iOS apps. As impressive as these numbers may be, the App Store is continually overlooked; specifically, as a free platform for entrepreneurs and businesses.
Popular websites, like Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR), and Instagram, would be unrecognizable without the ability to be remotely accessed. Over 75% of Facebook and Twitter members are mobile users. All 200 million active Instagram users access the photo-sharing network from mobile devices. Furthermore, popular start-up companies like Uber, most likely wouldn’t exist if the App Store wasn’t available. For consumers, the App Store changed how we interact with Apple products. Moreover, it created a seemingly endless pool of revenue for developers, and since the iOS SDK is available to anyone, any programmer has a shot at creating the next million-dollar app. In essence, the App Store created an entirely new industry driven not by Apple itself, but by a massive collective effort of visionary developers.
To put the importance of the App Store into context, try to imagine your iPhone without any of the apps you have downloaded. Given this scenario, Apple’s flagship mobile device goes from a technological Swiss Army knife, with seemingly limitless possibilities, to a brick with functions similar to the flip phones available at the turn of the century. Furthermore, try to imagine Apple as a whole without the App Store. Sure, the company would continue to produce its signature iPhones, along with its line of tablets, personal computers, and laptops, but what incentive would consumers have to buy the newest versions without new applications that utilize the improved technology? Where would Apple truly be without the $10 billion in 2013 App Store sales? Not to mention the developers who have earned over $15 billion via the App Store, which has created an estimated one million jobs worldwide (at least 300,000 in the U.S. alone). The App Store reflects such important economic implications that investment firms now create “iFunds” to invest in mobile-based companies. Yet, the idea of the App Store was almost discarded by Steve Jobs himself.
Steve Jobs opposed the introduction of third-party apps into his micromanaged operating system due to his fear of bugs, glitches, and viruses that could tarnish the golden reputation of his iOS. Jobs hoped that developers would take a web-based approach and use coding, such as HTML or AJAX, to develop applications that could be downloaded from Safari (which comes preinstalled on every iPhone). However, within a year, Jobs, Apple engineers, and third party developers alike realized that such a system was unsustainable. In July of 2008, Jobs announced the App Store, and with it, he created a new industry, secured a new revenue channel, and ensured Apple’s place atop the pinnacle of mobile technology for years to come.