The origin of App Store is actually a magazine?

Every year when a new iPhone is released, Apple will release a series of promotional videos to create momentum for it.

The most refreshing scene in the iPhone 12 series of promotional videos was that Apple showed the download speed of the new iPhone. The movie in the Apple TV store was downloaded in the blink of an eye.

This is obviously to highlight the 5G function of the iPhone 12, and the internet speed is indeed very fast, but in fact, the relationship between the movie store and even the App Store and network communication technology is far more exciting than this promo.

Jobs and Apple played a key role in the emergence and maturity of the app store model, and the upgrade of communication technology has truly made app stores popular, becoming a must-have application in every smart phone, and opening colors for people The colorful Internet world.

NeXT, a new beginning

In many people's eyes, the App Store, released after the iPhone, laid the foundation for Apple's ecology in one fell swoop. It is the soul of the iPhone, but it is clear that the appearance of the App Store did not happen overnight.

The world's first application store is not the App Store, although it is still closely related to the platform that Jobs built.

Let's go back to the 1990s. Not long after Jobs was kicked out of the Apple company he founded, he created a new technology company called NeXT, which focused on high-performance workstation computers.

▲Tim Berners Lee used NeXT ComPuter to create the predecessor of the Internet-the World Wide Web. Picture from: CERN

This company made great contributions to Jobs' return and revival of Apple. The soul of Mac, macOS, was born out of NeXT ComPuter's system. The world's first application store AppWrapper was also built on NeXT computers.

At that time, computers were still a fashionable gadget, and there were not too many people who used them, and it was not convenient for people to obtain software. They even had to drive to software retail stores like Egg Head to buy software, which was time-consuming and laborious.

AppWrapper solves this problem. According to the developer Jesse Tayler who participated in the construction of AppWrapper, at first they also distributed the application by means of magazine catalogue and mailing CD.

▲ Magazine version of AppWrapper. Picture from: appstorey

Because the internet speed was very slow at that time, people preferred to mail it instead of downloading it. Of course, the time to receive the software was extended to several days.

A few years later, Jesse Tayler and his team transformed AppWrapper into application software. He creatively proposed the application encryption solution, so that people can call or e-mail to purchase keys, pay with credit cards to unlock applications, and use electronic Version AppWrapper browse to understand the application.

▲ AppWrapper running on the computer. Picture from: appstorey

For application developers, Jesse Tayler will negotiate and communicate with each company to charge a portion of the sales as a distribution fee.

After AppWrapper, the method of application distribution was completely changed. People no longer need to spend a lot of time driving to buy software. Software sales and distribution can also be unaffected by CD inventory, and efficiency and speed have been greatly improved.

"Wired" magazine praised AppWrapper in 1994, it said:

AppWrapper is indeed the best way to distribute the application, copy the license string, and then you have the application. There will be no problems without a retail store.

▲ Picture from:

Even after Jobs saw AppWrapper at the NeXT show, he also gave a "I like it" evaluation.

However, although AppWrapper, as the first app store, changed the way of app distribution, it has not achieved widespread success. On the one hand, NeXT computers have indeed made great contributions to the development of computers and the Internet, but high performance and high pricing have also allowed It has become a favorite tool of a small number of people.

▲The starting price of NeXT computers reached 10,000 US dollars. Picture from: spider-mac

On the other hand, the number of software on AppWrapper is not much, about 250 models, of which there is no software developed by Microsoft such as Word, and it cannot be quickly developed and popularized with the help of abundant software.

Although it did not achieve large-scale commercial success, more and more people realized that the app store is a good business after the launch of AppWrapper, and it has the opportunity to change the lives of thousands of people.

After AppWrapper, someone found that the app store is a good business

The embryonic form of the App Store can already be seen from AppWrapper, and the Internet has only just begun to change people's lives.

▲ Digital River website in 1998. Picture from tedium

After AppWrapper, more and more people realized that the app store is a good business to make money, and the founder of Digital River, Joel Ronning, is one of them.

Similar to AppWrapper, Digital River also started with software encryption, providing application encryption and distribution services for major application developers, and establishing an online store for consumers to purchase and use. The difference is that Digital River pushes the application store business model forward A step away.

▲Digital River applied for a patent for application distribution

Digital River, like today's App Store, has a specific rake method, charging a 20% profit for each piece of software sold, which has also prompted Digital River to develop faster and faster.

The developer information and consumer information collected in the application sales process also prompted it to launch another business-marketing promotion, which promotes its own software for developers.

According to Networkworld data, by 2002, Digital River had more than 32,000 customers, and one-third of them contributed three-quarters of sales. In an interview, Luo Ning said:

Compared with a year, two or six years ago, people are more and more satisfied with acquiring applications digitally. This is good news because it allows us to ship applications to the other side of the earth in a matter of seconds. .

It is worth mentioning that, as a company that saw the prospect of the app store's business model earlier, Digital River is still operating.

In the mobile phone industry, NTT DocoMo, a Japanese telecom operator, who saw the commercial potential of the app store model earlier, launched a service called i-mode in 1999, through which people can use their mobile phones to access various services. Kind of Internet service.

For example, e-mail, query sports event data, weather forecast, and even ticket booking. In the later period, NTT DocoMo even customized the NFC function for the mobile phone equipped with its own operator's service, which can use the mobile phone as a transportation card.

Of course, this service is not free. People need to spend about 315 yen per month to subscribe, and only NTT DocoMo operators’ mobile phones can be used. Most of the network services are also monopolized by NTT DocoMo. It can be said that NTT Docomo has established A new "app store".

Moreover, it is very convenient for ordinary consumers to purchase various services by paying phone bills, which promotes the rapid popularization of i-mode services.

In the previous article , we discussed why there are flip phones in Japan, because Japanese operators have access to Internet services earlier, and feature phones can also enjoy many Internet services.

▲When "i-mode" is launched, the ticket reservation function displayed

The success of the i-mode service has attracted imitations from many countries and regions around the world. China Mobile has also sent a group of employees to learn from NTT DocoMo and learn about the i-mode service.

Everyone may be familiar with the next thing. Mobile finally launched the "Monternet" that many people call childhood memories. It hides in bed and reads novels, puts cool ringtones on mobile phones, and reads World Cup text reports. , These are one of the many services of Monternet.

▲Monternet. Image from: Sina Technology

Closed operation allows the App Store to have a better experience, but at the same time it also plunges into new controversy

​AppWrapper solves the security problem of application distribution on the Internet through encryption programs, and Digital River and NTT DocoMo have promoted the application store to more users with a more mature business system.

The real maturity of the app store model will have to wait for the App Store to appear. With the upgrade of 3G and 4G communication technologies, Apple has built a safer and richer application ecosystem, which has become one of the infrastructures of today’s mobile Internet ecosystem. . At the same time, this has also led Apple into a new controversy. Will closed operations curb competition? Does Apple have too much power over app review? It is important to know that in order to ensure the user experience, Apple will review the applications on the App Store and continue to improve relevant standards and development tools, interfaces, and so on. Cook once said that Apple has created and maintained 150,000 development interfaces to serve developers and invested a lot of manpower and material resources. This is one of the reasons why it charges 15% to 30% of the application share. The closed operation makes the App Store safer than many app stores, which is also one of its core competitiveness.

However, this security is not absolute. There will still be fish that slip through the net. According to a report by the Washington Post, nearly 2% of the top 1,000 apps on the App Store are rogue software.

Before, we accidentally downloaded a rogue software in the App Store. It claims to be free and it will actually keep popping up to induce users to pay. It cost 998 yuan accidentally. Fortunately, we finally got a refund through official channels.

Apple must continue to fight against these rogue software, not only review, but also follow-up consumer complaints, refunds, and so on.

As Apple’s old rival, Microsoft has also spoken out at this time. The Windows 11 app store’s rake is far lower than the 30% common in the industry, and even for non-game app developers, they can build their own payment channels to avoid store raids. to make.

This is almost the opposite of the App Store. One is closed and the other is open. As for which of the two is better, should you choose one or both, then only consumers-you and I can give the answer.

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