[Openmcl-devel] Mac App store: will CCL apps fly?

Ben Hyde bhyde at pobox.com
Fri Oct 22 17:55:34 PDT 2010

I'll pile on with a few comments.

Apple is moving toward a business model where the applications pass  
thru an approval process and more tightly controlled distribution  
channel.  This model has a few drivers.  People like to emphasis how  
this enables apple to control the experience, esthetics, brand, etc. -  
and I've no argument with that.  But really, honestly, the key driver  
for this model is that enables the vendor to subsidize the hardware  
cost with revenue from the applications side of the ecology.

That model might not be the winning one.  Google/Android is trying a  
different one.  They are trying to commoditize the hardware makers, so  
that every little device maker in all of asia has minimal margins.     
They then subsidize the design costs off their revenue from selling  
eyeballs.  Of course Apple will do that too.   The Apple model v.s.  
the Google/Android model is joined by the classic phone model where  
the phone company subsidizes the hardware costs from the cellular  
subscription revenue (with a tiny dose of walled garden shopping).

Creating a ecology/distribution channel that enables software sales to  
subsidize the hardware (ala game boxes) requires only that you prevent  
applications from routing around that.   They can police that after  
the fact, rather than prevent it.  It looks to me like they are  
evolving the terms and conditions so they can do that policing.

So a huge complex lisp app would be fine, just as long as they don't  
discover that app opening a competing distribution channel for  
arbitrary software.  I doubt they would approve CCL+quicklisp because  
it would route around the app store; but they might and then pull it's  
license only if and when it actually started causing a meaningful loss  
of that subsidy revenue.

A vendor who adopts a model where the apps subsidize the hardware  
doesn't need to preclude unlimited developer access to the platform  
and hardware.  He only needs to charge an amount (approximately the  
value of the subsidy) for the "right" of unlimited access.  For  
example I have friends who bought the dev license for their iphone  
only so that they could load the app which converts the phone into a  
wifi hub.

It can not be over estimated how much this is deeply entangled with  
the complexity of cell phone company business models and emerging  
cloud computing models.  So it all gets a lot more complex quickly.

While I think the app store's arrival on the Mac does hint at larger  
changes to come.  But there are other forces in play.

Every platform vendor from Salesforce to Firefox has taught their  
users that if they want some additional bit-o-function they should go  
look in the "app store" or it's equivalent.  That the older platforms  
don't do this is just a symptom of how slowly they have woken up how  
life is different if your often connected to the cloud.

Control over the distribution channel for software added to the device  
is currently necessary (this is changing) if the device maker wants to  
sell in concert with a high profit cell phone company.   (ps.  I like  
my iSpot)

Who knows how it will shake out.   All the players can change course  

I wouldn't be too confident that we can predict the future. 

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