The app marketplace excitement that wasn't

When I woke up this morning a quick scan of the headlines left me thinking Apple had gone an done something pretty interesting. The concerns about them circumventing the DMA had been wrong (mostly) and they were going to introduce something exciting, namely third party app marketplaces. According the press release an app marketplace wasn’t going to allow you to install an iOS app like you can an app on your Mac (more on that in a second), but instead it was a new feature that would allow anyone to create (with Apple’s approval) an app marketplace which would then enable side loading to take place. And from first glance it appeared that the only charge for this was to be 0.5€ per install.

Now people in the Tim Sweeney camp would argue that this isn’t true side loading. Side loading would still require an intermediary, i.e. no direct access to iOS, and that intermediary would be one that Apple had control over. But it felt, in the fog of the the early morning at least, like a huge step forward.

My marketplace brain immediately started thinking about the new opportunities this would enable. By way of a simple example, imagine an app review website, that spins up their own marketplace in order to combine all their knowledge with links to the best apps. Sure they’d be charged a small fee for each download, but as long as they were monetising the traffic sufficiently they could still make for pretty interesting businesses, and at the same time add a load of value to the end user. I started messaging friends who work in some relevant sectors to share the good news.

And then the excitement faded. Because, as the morning rolled on, and more people trawled through the docs Apple had released, it became clear that this wasn’t some spark of innovation, it was, much like the App Store payments despute last year, just a cynical attempt to maintain control over their walled garden.

I am not going to try and create an authoritative list of the barriers Apple has put up here and no doubt more information will come to light. But from the reputable sources I have read today the need for a $1M line of credit to create a marketplace and a recurring install charge all but kill anything new coming from the world of startups.

This morning felt like we were on the cusp of something new. But now a hollow feeling has taken over as I realisd I am rapidly losing respect for a company I have loved for so long.

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My name is Dan, I'm a product manager and entrepreneur living and working in London. Check out my blog archive or read more about me.