The Wall Street Journal on Monday confirmed that Apple has occasionally (and arbitrarily) killed off a handful of programs contributed by developers for its popular handheld. Jobs told the Journal the back door is necessary for security purposes, but that doesn’t explain the disappearance of I am Rich that did nothing but display a glowing red gem. Though App Store sales skyrocketed to $30 million in the first month, thus validating the platform, the back door – or at least Apple’s authoritarian use of it – will hinder its ability to create a real community of users and ISVs. Communities can’t play together unless they know the rules of the game, and Apple, new to this area of the industry, seems to be making it up as they go along.
CIOs and IT managers should be less concerned with the App Store’s financial success and more focused on the kinds of programs that have been downloaded to their coworkers’ devices. Most of what’s highlighted on the App Store are centered around entertainment and games, but there are at least 25 to 30 business tools including time and expense trackers, social networking add-ons and more sophisticated applications such as Salesforce.com’s Mobile.
At the same time, Apple has stepped up its efforts to market the iPhone to corporations. Click on a tab called “iPhone in enterprise and you’ll find testimonials from CIOs at Disney and Kraft, among others.
“Using the iPhone SDK, an enterprise can easily create applications customized to its business needs and even take advantage of key iPhone technologies such as Multi-Touch, the accelerometer, fast wireless connectivity, and GPS,” Apple says in a section on integration. “To deploy their in-house applications, companies can securely sync the applications via iTunes to authorized iPhones. Once installed, enterprise applications live side by side with all the other applications that come with every iPhone.”
Will companies be prepared to sync more mission-critical programs to iTunes, the use of which is at least frowned upon, if not prohibited, by senior managers? If they do, is there any chance Apple would use the same “back door” program on the App Store to regularly scan devices and make decisions about what they will allow on them? That would just be stupid. But Apple has never been very smart about how it approaches the business sector.
IT departments are generally pretty good at figuring out what kinds of software will help their businesses succeed, but the App Store’s momentum suggests their role may eventually consist of double-checking and second-guessing the choices of iPhone users. What the App Store needs is not another calendar program but software that will help technology professionals monitor the devices that operate within their networks. This would be a great opportunity for a developer to tackle. As long as Steve Jobs doesn’t mind someone else becoming rich, too.