The First App Store, One Hundred Billion Downloads Later
The App Store, had humble beginnings as a grassroots reaction to retail requirements for distributing software back in 1991. Today the App Store has become a global phenomenon where downloads are measured in the hundreds of billions.
The first App Store was created using the same tools and technologies used to create the world wide web and the same technologies used to create iPhone Apps today.
“[NeXT Software technologies are] the core technologies behind iTunes and (iOS) App Stores today” — What’s NeXT? Software, Psychedelics and the Origins of OS X & iOS – Andrew C Stone, NeXT Programmer and creator of the iOS Sensation, @twittelator
Learn about how this software phenomenon changed the world we live in, by providing a means of income to creators, authors and developers everywhere.
With 850 Apps downloaded every second, the App Store is king.
It is hard to underestimate the impact the App Store has had on the global economy and on computing in general. Over just the past 25 years, electronic distribution has gone from pre-birth non-existence to an everyday need, billions of times over.
“The App Store is an economic boon…forever changed software, and software distribution” says Apple CEO, Tim Cook “98 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have an App in the App Store today”
According to Apple, App Store sales generated over eight billion (US Dollars) in global revenue last year. That number is only growing.
“Industry has never seen anything like this before…. Paid out $30 billion to developers. “ — Apple CEO, Tim Cook WWDC 2015
It is equally hard to underestimate the impact the App Store has had on the computer industry. Literally changing the landscape of computing forever. People used to buy software at a place called “Egg Head“, software would have to be boxed with printed manuals and retailers would have to hold inventory.
Electronic distribution changed all that. Forever.
The AppWrapper’s software was expensive!
Software used to be far more expensive, far harder to make and had far less of a marketplace to sell to. It takes a big marketplace to sell software for a buck!
The Electronic AppWrapper had an average App selling price range around $850. That’s a reflection of the size of the software platform marketplace at that time.
The modern mobile world has made a $10,000. computer in 1988 cost more like $200 in 2015. That’s a 50-fold reduction in price, while the computers of today are almost unimaginably more powerful.
The iOS App Store has a an overall average price of $1.10 a 772 fold decrease and 75% of all the Apps in the App Store are free. 0% of EAW Apps were free.
What a change 20 years makes.
A six thousand fold increase in Apps offered.
The Electronic AppWrapper had about 250 Apps, songs and other digital works, As of June 2015, just the iOS App Store alone vends over 1.5 million digital works across the globe.
That’s a big change in market size!
“At the time, we had a lot of trouble even creating an internal database that could reliably handle 200-500 Apps, a number that seems almost microscopically minute, even quaint today” — said Jesse Tayler, App Store inventor.
The growth of the industry can be seen by the measure of both Apps available for sale and the average selling price. Today’s market is far larger and these numbers attest to the growth curve from ground zero to the highly active, multi-billion dollar marketplace of today.
We started with a CD-ROM
The App Store predates the web, in that the internet itself was not capable of transferring the kinds of data that an App Store truly required. The first App Store was a CD-ROM product that you’d receive in the mail like Netflix would send you a DVD. The Store was updated along with a printed magazine counterpart which was delivered periodically to subscribers and offered free at trade shows and via promotions.
It is also important to note that in 1990 the international rules and regulations around data encryption were complex. At that time export to various european countries in a post-world-war II era, meant you had to change, downgrade or even omit encrypted data for entire regions like France. Encryption was considered antiestablishment or antigovernment and was not widely used by consumers at all.
The AppWrapper was hard software to write
The last point to be made about this historic journey is that the original Electronic AppWrapper was hard to write. This can be evidenced by the fact that the software took so many years to create, and months to craft each release.
“It was also a time when encryption, graphic content, electronic communications were all in their infancy and overcoming the limits of these systems was an everyday challenge” — said Jesse Tayler, inventor of the App Store and AppWrapper creator. “It took everything we had, and then some. I’ve never worked so hard in my life”
Today, spending a few years to develop a software concept would be far harder to get funded.
Ironically, the acceptance of risk in venture capital is actually lower than in the early 1990’s if you consider the cost to startup vs. the potential market value as seen at that early stage. At that time you’d view the funding we required for the Electronic AppWrapper as a very high-risk endeavor indeed. Today, such a risk might be simply too high for inventors to see real value.
If only we could have seen the future of “today”, it would have been so obvious.
NeXT. A computer that made history more than it has been part of history. Until now. AppStorey brings you the untold Story of first App Store, and the stratospheric rise of electric distribution told by the people who were there.