Monday, 3 February 2014

Closed App Store or open Android Market? Both, please.

Apple and Android logos

Apple and Google are at war over whose system of accepting apps is better. Here's why they should offer both.

There is little doubt that one of the biggest changes in technology over the last ten years is the adoption of the smartphone. And well as changing the habits of mobile phone users, it's meant a lot of changes to computers in general. Not all have been good - it has propagated some ridiculous patent lawsuits, and it's encourages the rise of some highly dubious "freemium" games - but one of the best things it's brought, in my opinion, in my opinion, is the concept of the app store.

In the Linux world, the idea of the app store is old hat. For decades, most Linux distros have been orgnaised into packages. Some are integral to the system, such as the kernel and desktop, some are standard packages such as Libreoffice, and some are extra packages that users add to their system. To add an extra packages, you simply go to the Add/Remove programme, click on what you want, and Linux downloads and installs it for you. There are a lot of advantages to this method: it automatically installs any other software you need to run this program, everything is automatically updated, and if you ever want to install the program, Linux does it for you rather than relying on a dubious uninstallation package that came with the program. Although most software installed this way is free, it has been used for paid apps too.

So, in theory, it is welcome that this practice has been adopted on smartphones. In practice, however, things are more complicated. There are two big changes between Linux and smartphones. Firstly, it's opened this approach up from a mainly tech-savy small group to the masses of smartphone owners. Secondly, this method of installing software has suddenly become a lucrative way of earning money. As a result, there are now thousands of app writers all jostling for status in a highly competitive market. And this is where Apple and Google have heavily differed in their answer to this challenge.