Democratic with a small d, as in the sense of Thomas Jefferson’s small farmers who are now one or two person mobile computer application programming businesses:
The App Store must rank among the most carefully policed software platforms in history. Every single application has to be approved by Apple before it can be offered to consumers, and all software purchases are routed through Apple’s cash register. Most of the development tools are created inside Apple, in conditions of C.I.A.-level secrecy. Next to the iPhone platform, Microsoft’s Windows platform looks like a Berkeley commune from the late 60s.
And yet, by just about any measure, the iPhone software platform has been, out of the gate, the most innovative in the history of computing. More than 150,000 applications have been created for it in less than two years, transforming the iPhone into an e-book reader, a flight control deck, a musical instrument, a physician’s companion, a dictation device and countless other things that were impossible just 24 months ago.
Perhaps more impressively, the iPhone has been a boon for small developers. As of now, more than half the top-grossing iPad apps were created by small shops.
Those of us who have championed open platforms cannot ignore these facts
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As far as I know2 there has been zero instances of malware or other malicious applications released on the Apple iPhone store. Not a few, zero. Every single app has been vetted by some Apple employee, sometimes causing great gnashing of teeth on the part of the developer, but for an end user, that isn’t really as important as remaining assured that the app you are about download is safe.
And although I have not done any iPhone programming myself3, this rings true as well:
The fact that the iPhone platform runs exclusively on Apple hardware helps developers innovate, because it means they have a finite number of hardware configurations to surmount. Developers building apps for, say, Windows Mobile have to create programs that work on hundreds of different devices, each with its own set of hardware features. But a developer who wants to build a game that uses an accelerometer for control, for example, knows that every iPhone OS device in the world contains an accelerometer.
The maniacal attention to detail and usability in Apple’s consumer products also applies to its software development platforms. However much developers might complain about the torturous app approval process or the sharing of revenue, most will tell you that the iPhone development tools are a delight.
Apple took a lot of heat waiting a year after the introduction of the first-generation iPhone to open the App Store. At the time, it contended that it wanted to ensure that the development tools it shipped met its standards. The success of the App Store suggests that this patience was well worth it.