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Apple's App Store Marks First Anniversary

In its first year, the online app shop has inspired online application vending for Google's Android, RIM's BlackBerry, Nokia's S60, Palm's webOS, and Windows Mobile devices.

Apple iPhone 3GS
(click image for larger view)
Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch will hit its one-year anniversary Saturday, and it has been a wild and successful 12 months.

Prior to the launch of the App Store, the iPhone was limited to Web-based applications. This irked some developers because they felt it limited in what they could do with the platform. A full software development kit eventually gave them more hooks into the smartphone.

This Web-centric approach to apps is somewhat similar to how Palm is approaching programs for its webOS platform, and is reminiscent of how Google is promoting its upcoming Chrome OS desktop operating system.

Apple rolled out the App Store last year with the iPhone 3G, and it has been extremely popular with developers and consumers. The store is now filled with more than 60,000 apps that range from games to business apps. Users have downloaded more than a billion programs.

Although Apple keeps 30% of the revenues from any sold app, it is unclear if the company is making profits from the App Store due to the costs of maintaining it. But the virtual app store has made the iPhone a more attractive handset. The latest version, the iPhone 3GS, sold more than a million units in its launch weekend.

The road hasn't been completely smooth, however, as Apple has faced criticism over its role as gatekeeper of the App Store. The company does not allow apps that compete with native iPhone programs. Opera Software, for example, is essentially blocked from building a version of its popular Opera Mini browser for the touch-screen smartphone. Additionally, some developers have said Apple's vetting process is arbitrary or unfair. A South Park app wasn't allowed in because of foul language but a controversial baby-shaking app was briefly allowed to be distributed before Apple pulled it.

The negatives have been minor compared to the positives though, and Apple's rivals have definitely taken notice of the App Store's success. Since Apple introduced its store, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia's S60, webOS, and Windows Mobile have all introduced a similar way for users to browse, buy, download, and install apps over the air.

The iPhone may be your next full-function computer. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this topic. Download the report here (registration required).

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