The iTunes app store - in fact, the only app store officially called the "App Store" - will be one year old this weekend. Most people have seen it in one shape or other - usually that of a pint of beer - if they haven't used it and one of the first things I did as soon as I tried the iPhone for the very first time was to download as many free apps as I could.
That was about two weeks ago now and out of the 42 I chose, I still use four, namely Skype, Twitterfon, Facebook and Last.fm and these are by no means unique to the iPhone. In fact there are plenty of phones without app stores that have native access to these programs. So, I'm beginning to wonder, is there really a point in 95% of the apps out there or is the App Store just a large, cheap, tacky bag of nonsense novelty?
There were 50,000 different apps available for the iPhone and Touch at last count on 8th June. That compares as 10 times more than their nearest rival, the Android Marketplace, and I'd bet you could probably find the same actually useful software on both, as well as a world of dross.
The vast majority of all the software is games and most of those are the kinds of things with the shortest of interest spans ranging from the addictive and well put together Paper Toss to the utterly inane Finger Sprint which only requires one go before you've had enough.
The fact remains, though, that neither is going to be on your handset for very long. So, yes, I'd really say that, as far as the user's concerned, there's very little in the App Store that really makes it worth having at all. What I would suggest, though, is that although it's pure novelty for us, it's absolutely key to the iPhone's and Apple's success.
First, and most obviously, Apple makes a nice little profit on the App Store at what I can only imagine are some pretty low overheads. In fact, admin and enforcement of the rigorous App Store rules and the sending out of rejection letters are probably as expensive as it gets for them.
In return for their pains, they pick up a fee of $99/year for every developer who purchases the SDK ($299/year if they happen to go for the deluxe package) and a further 30% of every download. Now, actually, that's not a vast amount of money for a multi-national like Apple. It's certainly a tidy little earner but I doubt it's a major part of their fiscal plans; not compared to sales of the handsets in the first place, thought to bring them $600 or so each. A million sales of the iPint may have earned Apple $300,000 but that's nothing compared to the amount they made on the handsets that downloaded them.
Where the App Store really does work for Apple is as an excellent advertisement for their hardware. The novelty apps may only be on your phone for a week or two but how many people see your little fun game during that time and begin to think about getting an iPhone for themselves? How many people look over your shoulder on the Tube and see not only how entertaining it looks but also how well the hardware works, how smooth that touchscreen is? More apps mean more interactivity, more time with your phone spent out of your pocket and more time on display for all to see and covet.
Each app is a little advert for Apple and, when they work, they not only make Jobs Inc a lot of money but also spread that mobile advert even further a field to hundreds more potential customers. It's wonderfully viral, offering more dividends than any web based campaign ever did and much better conversion rates no doubt.
And, of course, once you've got the iPhone, you're in the family. It's a very short step from a handset to a laptop. Well, you might as well enjoy that walled garden once you've gone inside and when you've got your most often used point of digital access in the Mac way of doing things, you probably ought to complete the picture with Apple TV and wherever else your new found trust and appreciation takes you.
In fairness to the App Store, there are still plenty of applications that are good and useful but they are few and far between. Below that, there's a tier of one's that are good for a while - such as Wimbledon update programs etc - and then there's the sea of inanity. So, I'd say that for the consumer, it is a pile of novelty nonsense but at the tip of that pile is the cherry on the crap cake.
That cherry is probably the same as the one that sits atop much smaller pastries like the Android Marketplace, BlackBerry App World and even Ovi once it sorts its issues out. Where the App Store can go to lift itself from the novelty is as a home of serious games, the likes of which could tempt you away from the DSi and the PSP.
For Apple, though, there's nothing remotely nonsensical about the App Store. In fact, it's probably the very key to expanding their market beyond their own fan base and the first time since the iPod that made serious in roads into Microsoft's market. It'll be interesting to see how it and their Apple's reach develops if they do decide to go after Playstation and Nintendo.
Fresh back from the Gadget Show Live, Duncan and I tackle the legal issue of a possible mistrial of the high profile Pirate Bay case, we consider a move to 3 with their promise of free Skype calls and we wonder how on Earth Apple let the Baby Shaker software into the iPhone App Store.
Still missing a decent name for the middle section where we pit hardware against software, it's the turn of Linux Ubuntu's latest release, Jaunty Jackalope, to force its way onto my desktop, while I persuade Duncan that he really needs to buy the Ion Drum Rocker Premium Drum Kit Controller for his Guitar Hero World Tour addiction.
Go gentle on Duncan this weeks he wasn't feeling too good after a late night out with his mum and tequila chaser. Most of all, though, please forgive the buzzing audio. We are working on it, and should have a solution next week. Promise.
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Normal service has resumed after the lovely and disruptive Easter break and, with Tech Digest going up to the Gadget Show Live this afternoon, you're getting your dose of the TD podcast a whole day early. We wouldn't forget about you for two weeks in a row.
In Episode 3 Duncan dribbles over the new Zune HD, we discuss the tricky legal ins and outs of how one girl's blog post on MySpace got her family driven out of Coalinga, CA, and we discover that Amazon aren't actually the bad guys that they seemed after a small case of internet homophobia.
In the middle section, which has no title because "hard and soft" just sounds a bit wrong, Duncan once again successfully persuades me to try out a piece of free imaging software called Paint.net and I just about convince him to part with £169.99 for the Flip MinoHD camcorder.
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If you're getting annoyed by the slight buzzing then the good news is that we should have some high end mics to use very soon. Send all your comments, topics that you'd like us to talk about and general abuse to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or throw us a tweet at @techdigest.
British Army officers are calling for a Konami video game to be banned because it's set during the Second Battle of Fallujah which took place between 7th November and 23rd December 2004 in Iraq.
Six Days in Fallujah was developed using the photos, videos, memories and stories of the US Marines at the battle, known at the time as Operation Phantom Fury, and it's intended for worldwide release on PS3 and Xbox next year.
Tim Collins OBE, a former army colonel told the Telegraph:
"It's much too soon to start making video games about a war that's still going on, and an extremely flippant response to one of the most important events in modern history."
"It's particularly insensitive given what happened in Fallujah, and I will certainly oppose the release of this game."
With the war still going on it's quite easy to see Mr Collin's point but the president of the US firm developing the game, Atomic Games, said:
"For us, the challenge was how to present the horrors of war in a game that is entertaining, but also gives people insight into a historical situation in a way that only a video game can provide."
"Our goal is to give people that insight, of what it's like to be a Marine during that event, what it's like to be a civilian in the city, and what it's like to be an insurgent."
It's clearly a very delicate subject with the true test being exactly how well the game deals with the subject matter, how sensitively it shows the issues on both sides of the conflict and whether you're able to play from the perspective of both the inhabitants of the city and the soldiers.
What I do know for sure is that until someone plays it, it seems a little early to go calling for a ban, particularly when it's been effectively endorsed by people who were actually there. Doubtless more on this as the release draws near.
Google is in talks to acquire Twitter according to sources in a Tech Crunch article this morning. Negotiations have been believed to be at both late and early stages, so we can probably take from that that the stages are in fact somewhere towards the middle.
Google's valuation of the microblogging platform is thought to be well in excess of the $250 million that Facebook offered a few month's back. The important difference to this deal is in the payment plan.
Zuckerburg Inc. was looking to use overpriced Facebook stock for the majority of the bargain whereas Google is ready to pay in both cold, hard cash and more stable, publicly-valued shares.
The big questions surrounding the deal are about what Google plans on doing with Twitter and what founders of the service Evan Williams and Biz Stone want out of it too. Twitter represents a real-time search of news and events happening now whereas Google results give weight to pages according to when they were indexed and how many people link to them. If Google does go through with the deal, they would effectively own search but whether they would improve Twitter or leave it to rot is another matter.
For a bigger discussion of the ins and outs of this one, download the Tech Digest podcast.
(via Tech Crunch)
So, this morning, Dan and I got on Skype and had a go at recording a podcast. We chatted about the big stories of the week - Twitter and Last.fm trying to monetise their services, and the big media companies approaching Google to try to get their content higher in search rankings.
I'm a bit of a software person, whereas Dan's into his hardware, so as a central feature, we thought it'd be fun to try to convince each other of the joys of a bit of software and a bit of hardware respectively. I plumped for Last.fm, whereas Dan tried to convince me I need Canon's EOS 500D DSLR in my life.
Lastly, we took a brief look at some of the stranger news stories of the week - the 60ft penis on the roof and the CC all your emails to Jacqui Smith campaign. I wanted to talk about a few other stories here too, but we ran out of time.
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It's a little clunky, still - my voice buzzes a bit thanks to the cheap headset I'm using. We're very much feeling our way around how the whole process works, so any recommendations and advice are more than welcome. Drop us a tweet at @techdigest or email me or Dan.
What a wind up! I'm saying that because I'm utterly wound up and it's going to take me to write this semi-controlled tirade of editorial opinion on the subject of Google indexing to get myself ironed out again.
I know what you're thinking. No, Google indexing does not sound like a good read nor anything worth getting passionate about, but trust me here. Stick with me a sec and I promise I'll have your blood boiling by the end of the next para.
Well, there was no new handset and no or touch tablet revealed but Apple seems to have done it's homework in time for last night's release of the iPhone 3.0 OS software. A lot of people have branded the event an exercise in catch-up but I think that rather trivialises what is an important upgrade...
We saw this 1kg notebook quite a while back but Dell has finally sent out their E4200 for all the tech world to get a closer look at. I already knew it was a lush little piece of brushed aluminium design plus a large backside but here's what I made of the rest of it...
I always thought that a whole new battery technology would be the way to enhance our mobile power supply experience of techno-gadgetry, but it turns out it's going to be good old Li-ion all along. Apparently, we've been doing it wrong all this time and that we'll have one that can charge up in less than 20 seconds in two to three years' time.
We know this because a crack team of battery bods at MIT has already...