Apple’s App Store turns 6: How Steve Jobs’ biggest blunder became one of Apple’s greatest strengths

“It may seem hard to believe, but when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world, he was especially proud of the fact that it didn’t really support [third-party] apps,” Mark Rogowsky writes for Forbes. “With the App Store having subsequently taken its place as one of Apple’s most important strategic weapons and having just celebrated its sixth birthday yesterday, it’s fascinating to recall that it nearly never came to pass.”

Rogowsky recalls, “Jobs told developers back in 2007 that they could build software for the iPhone if they wanted, they should just do it inside the web browser. ‘You’ve got everything you need if you know how to write apps using the most modern web standards to write amazing apps for the iPhone today,’ he said. ‘We think we’ve got a very sweet story for you. You can begin building your iPhone apps today.'”

“Those web apps, though, had limitations in terms of performance and functionality. But they were the only game in town so many went ahead and built them, including Facebook and Google. Still, the frustration set in almost immediately and it didn’t take Jobs long to realize he’d been wrong,” Rogowsky writes. “Maybe he’d even known it all along.”

“Whether Jobs was resistant because he felt the idea wasn’t good or because he truly was concerned about how Apple would manage things, the company reversed course within months,” Rogowsky writes. “In October of 2007, it announced it would be building a software development kit (SDK) that would allow for ‘native apps’ that could run with better performance than those browser-based apps Jobs had touted earlier in the year.”

Much more in the full article – recommendedhere.

37 Comments

  1. So what’s new Mr. Rogowsky?
    Is your article aimed for the Rip Van Winkle’s of this world?
    If not, such repetitive bullshit should be ignored by MDN.

    Just saying……………..

      1. Do you mean Rip Van Winkle omalansky?
        Because in my book, anybody not familiar with this story has just woken up to MDN Ipso facto Rip Van Winkle!

        Just saying……….

  2. Even if they had planned to allow apps from the start chances are they couldn’t have put everything in place to allow them. If so they’re hardly going to shit on the solution they had.

  3. Thank you, Scott Forstall.

    I bet quite a few folks within Apple wish they had him on board for the iWatch right now. He may have been a jerk but he had foresight and he got shit done. Steve didn’t have him there for no reason. He was an A-team player, one of his top lieutenants who possessed the fortitude to challenge him and change his mind. There are very few things that could be more impressive on a resume.

      1. Scott had a lot on his plate and overlooked a portion. He was fired over his refusal to sign the apology letter. He was never given a chance to correct the mistake. We don’t know what the outcome would’ve been if he proceeded to do so.

        Let’s not pretend that failures of an even larger magnitude didn’t occur under Steve. And he didn’t apologize for a single one. Scott simply didn’t like the new Apple under Tim and chose to leave rather than submit.

        1. Oh, bull. “He overlooked a portion.” He told his superiors that he had a finished product when he clearly didn’t.

          He wasn’t a good fit for the culture of the new Apple. No matter how brilliant he was when Steve was there to kick his ass, he didn’t belong anymore. And from everything I’ve read, his attitude was an impediment to Apple’s functioning, so I highly doubt his abrasive ass is missed.

          1. That abrasiveness and friction is part of what made Apple great under Steve. He likely had many people on his team who respected him, Steve wasn’t the only one. He didn’t fit with the new Apple which is why he stood his ground and made the choice to leave rather than force a square peg through a round hole.

            As for submitting an unfinished product, how on earth could Maps have launched any more successfully? It was an infant program that, like Siri, must be built through the interaction and feedback of hundreds of millions of iOS users over the course of time. “Mapsgate” was sensationalist FUD pushed by the media and Scott was right in his refusal to bow.

  4. Being an Apple user/fan/follower I feel 100% confident, IMHO, the AppStore was in the works from the get go just held back until they or Steve felt it was ready for prime time.

    1. The fact that they were able to make the App Store happen relatively quickly after the iPhone was initially introduced seems to bear this out. It had to have been in the works all along to have had that happen it would seem. The web apps thing only a temporary bandaid. Jobs wasn’t perfect and did miss a few things over his career but he was a heck of lot more perfect than any other CEO and got more things right than most.

    2. I agree. Plus, I don’t think it was “held back.” It was the plan all along to wait until Year Two of iPhone. Why? If the App Store was released on Day One of iPhone, there would be zero iPhone users out there at launch. Developers would mostly be in “wait and see” mode, and the App Store would NOT have a big launch.

      By waiting for the second year to launch the App Store, there were already millions of iPhones in use. Instant customer base for developers. They enthusiastically jumped onboard and supported the platform. The App Store got a HUGE launch.

  5. I believe that there was a plan to allow 3rd party apps. They did not want to rush it. Get the SDK and payment system bugs out first. I’m glad they did. I don’t want to think of the App Store launch being anything like Mobile Me or Maps.

    1. There’s quite a few folks around here who “believe” that, but the facts as reported contradict those beliefs. I haven’t read anywhere about it being planned all along. No sources within Apple have stepped forward even anonymously to dispute the claims. The facts, as we know them, are that Steve said “No” one too many times in his quest for the simplest OS imaginable. And he quickly changed course once his A-team players, led by Forstall, challenged him, which is part of the reason they were there in the first place. It’s not a slight against Steve, it’s another testament to his greatness as a leader.

      1. Jobs was against native third party applications because he was afraid of mess that Android applications store has now.

        Jobs has agreed to proceed only after the team and himself came to understanding how exactly Apple will guarantee that applications will not mess with the system — concrete rules of curation were developed and whole business process of it.

  6. Legendary Jobs arrogance – right along with “nobody needs a DVD” or “you are holding it wrong” especially “I’m driving the truck into the ditch” because “we are a mobile device company” – meaning we will never become what we could be and change the world in ways way beyond what we have done to change the world already then just stop changing the world. Too bad. Worse still, his successor is so clueless, so rich, so satisfied, so useless due to being spoiled by the “richest company” standing which means he doesn’t have to do any innovating or anything else. Too bad, indeed.

    1. the only thing you got right was “richest company”

      lol, how did it become that if Jobs and his right hand Cook were as bad as you said they were?

      basically you’re saying : “You’ve made yourself the richest from nothing and I say you’re dumb, idiotic and incompetent… ”
      LOL 🙂

    2. Moron. This actually is the perfect example of what Jobs did best: Anticipate and create a solution for consumers (the iPhone), but realize that his original assumption was wrong and change course to adapt and improve (the App Store and iOS apps).

  7. The iPhone was far, far more successful than anyone at Apple had ever anticipated, including Steve Jobs. This fact does not diminish his genius one iota.

  8. The App Store came about because of the rich jailbreak community. The hackers were writing some pretty awesome applications and some were even profiting from them. When the App Store came online, many of the jailbreak developers rewrote their apps and put them on the App Store. I purchased a lot of apps just to say “thank you” to the rebels and troublemakers. They pushed Steve Jobs to make the iPhone better.

  9. what does all this tell you?

    — Jobs can see error, admit it and change course with stunning speed. The aim is to build better products and not protect egos or departments …

    which is very unlike RIM, Nokia, Msft, ETC.

    1. Exactly. The popular belief is that if someone is great at this or that then they cannot make mistakes. Couldn’t be further from the truth. The great ones not only make mistakes, but they have the ability to admit when they were wrong and correct it. Contrast this with certain former presidential candidates who simply cannot admit they were wrong, only that their messaging was not convincing enough.

    2. In Insanely Simple, author Ken Segal documented a few cases where Steve Jobs completely changed his mind within minutes, sometimes within the same sentence. He was never a prisoner of his own beliefs, and that malleability of mind seems a precondition for greatness.

  10. Any writer who says Steve never intended to include apps on the iPhone is showing just how clueless they are as to Apple’s long term intentions.

    Apple’s (and Steve’s) primary concern with the original iPhone was stability. Knowing (now public knowledge) just how unfinished and unstable the iPhone OS was when Steve’s first publicly demonstrated it, I don’t blame him. You don’t want your phone do have a reputation of crashing.

    Yes, that’s what he told developers at the time. Apple rarely announces their future plans for the next few generations of a product.

    Saying Apple and Steve NEVER intended to allow apps on the iPhone is just ludicrous.

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