App Store censorship: you're doing it wrong

John C. Tanner
12 Jun 2009

There's little doubt that the impact of Apple's App Store on the mobile content sector has been substantial. With over 35,000 apps, a billion downloads and a plethora of imitators, it's hard to argue with that kind of success.

That said, it's also hard not to question how easy it will be to replicate that success - especially after Nokia's shaky start with its Ovi Store launch in May.

App stores tied direct to devices, OSs or platforms like Java make sense. Customers want easy access to apps that work on their handsets. App stores for cellcos is trickier.

Sure, cellcos have that important billing relationship and want something that generates traffic and customer loyalty. On the other hand, that's what walled-garden portals were for. Even if an app-storefront is an improvement, it could also be redundant - not to mention confusing for end-users - once every major handset platform has its own app store up and running.

Much of this also depends on what you want out of an app store in the first place. Of course, everyone wants money. But it's not clear just how much money Apple is making from its App Store.

Apple doesn't release that information, and best guesses range from $45 million to $160 million, of which Apple gets 30%. And that's arguably irrelevant, since by most analyst accounts the real purpose of the App Store, like iTunes, is to drive demand for iPhones and iPod Touch players.

That's good news for hardware players like RIM, but possibly less so for cellcos.

In the meantime, while we're waiting for everyone to figure out their app-store strategies, I do have a favor to ask. If you're going to copy the App Store, please get your content approval policy straight first.

Making it up as they go

Seriously. Content approval policies for app stores make sense if you're protecting against substandard products and malicious code. But there are quantifiable benchmarks to enforce those. "Objectionable content" is much harder to identify, and Apple has leaned that the hard way.

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