Apple’s App Store reached the 25 billion downloaded apps milestone on Monday. The lucky downloader of the 25th billion app, Chunli Fu, a user from Qingdao, China, will be awarded a $10,000 iTunes gift card. Now, that is a lot of money to spend on apps alone. The last I checked, music and TV show downloads aren’t available in China, and books and podcasts are all free, leaving apps the only content Chunli would have to pay for in iTunes. The app that led to Chunli’s windfall is the free version of Disney’s “Where’s My Water?”
The success of Apple’s App Store is phenomenonal, in part because it might not have happened at all. The first iPhone, which was launched in 2007, came without the App Store. At the time, Steve Jobs truly believed that Web apps would be adequate to supply content to the phone that would permanently change the mobile landscape. He also thought his team might not be able to handle to the complexity of policing third-party apps.
This was mentioned in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs:
The apps phenomenon began with the iPhone. When it first came out in early 2007, there were no apps you could buy from outside developers, and Jobs initially resisted allowing them. He didn’t want outsiders to create applications for the iPhone that could mess it up, infect it with viruses, or pollute its integrity.
He finally relented some time down the road, after considering the views of people inside Apple as well as outsiders. But he did so with a couple of caveats: the iTunes App Store would be the only way to download apps on iOS, and he wanted full control over the entire ecosystem. The result is a highly successful App Store ruled over by Apple’s infamous iron fist.
Had Steve Jobs not changed his mind, you wouldn’t be reading this today. In fact, iOS would have today’s success without its app ecosystem.