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Ten ideas for a better App Store

App Store 2.0According to Bloomberg much of the former iAd team is now working on a new Apple project that would let developers promote their apps in the App Store using a paid search model.

I’m not buying it.

Last December, Tim Cook announced that Phil Shiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing, “is taking on new responsibilities for advancing our ecosystem, led by the App Store”. Replacing crappy App Store search with crappy paid App Story search is the last thing Phil would do.

I expect that the next WWDC will be all about the App Store, introducing a collection of technical and business innovations that will create massive new wave of opportunities for app developers. Here are 10 ideas:

  1. App Rentals — Being able to rent apps for 24 hours the way you can rent movies could revolutionize the App Store. Some apps could be 99¢ to rent and $4,99 to buy, and some could be $3.99 to rent and $9.99 or $19.99 to buy. A whole new class of apps could become commercially viable to build.
  2. Upgrade Pricing—The App Store is almost eight years old. Too many app makers have struggled to work around this. On the Mac, several of loyal Apple development shops have switched back to selling direct.
  3. A Users Communications Channel—By default, app developers know nothing about their users and they don’t have an effective way to communicate with them. To circumvent this, some apps require user registration and others (ab)use push notifications. Being able to communicate with your customers is essential for any good business and it’s time for Apple to stop standing in the way by trying to control this relationship.
  4. HTML App Info—Text-only app descriptions and five screen shots, that’s it? Welcome to the 21st century Apple, seriously. In order to make informed app purchasing decisions, users need access to product information that is visually pleasing and easy to explore.
  5. Awesome Search—It’s a solvable problem. It’s not super hard. The search I created for the Know What’s Inside catalog of kids apps is better than the App Store and it was built with a tiny fraction of the resources Apple has. The only reason app search sucks is because Apple hasn’t cared enough.
  6. Your personal app news channel—Apple knows your app ratings and, if you’ve given them permission, the amount time you spend using apps. Why not use this info to determine what other apps you’d like? Give me an Apple News channel with interesting apps for me. The App Store team is doing a terrific job highlighting great apps but there’s tremendous opportunity for discovery beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.
  7. Favor apps that fully implement accessibility—Especially under Tim Cook, “doing the right thing” has become one of Apple’s core values. The company invests heavily in the environment and in making devices that are accessible for everyone. I would love it if the App Store team would take a stand and say “You’ll never get featured unless your app supports accessibility”.
  8. Zero tolerance for fake reviews and charts rigging—There’s a special place in hell for those who are systematically manipulating download numbers and posting fake reviews. While I’m sure Apple is working to prevent fraud, I hope they will double their efforts to irradiate this despicable form of manipulation.
  9. Social app discovery—Show me which apps my friends like. Notify me when my friends share an app rating. Game Center is the closest thing Apple has to a “friends” network. This is definitely an area with room for innovation and development.
  10. Connect for AppStore—Apple could make the biggest leap foward in app discovery by …drumroll… implementing Apple Music Connect for the App Store! This would give app makers a channel to post content with tips & tricks, guided tours, etc. Users could share, like, and discuss all from within the App Store. Look for a tab with an @ sign in the next version of the App Store app.

Special thanks to Denys Zhadanov, whose tweet inspired this post.

To be or not to be (in the App Store)

AppStoreJason Snell summarizes a presentation by Rich Siegel of Bare Bones on the App Store:

For many Mac apps, the Mac App Store is a good home. And the store itself continues to evolve. But in the past few years developers have gotten a better view into all of its quirks and frustrations, and for some of them it’s just not worth it.

Many of these frustrations occur at the end of the development cycle. In small companies the same people are involved in marketing, sales, development, and support. Simultaneous challenges on multiple fronts can make App Store launches especially challenging for independent developers.

Goodbye to a good friend

Tadeusz GolonkaI just got news from Kraków, Poland that my friend Tadeusz Golonka has died. He was one of ACT’s most enthusiastic supporters, a pillar of the developer community, and an absolute joy to be around.

When we went to ICANN in Lithuania together, my bags didn’t arrive. It was late and I said I was going to the shopping mall to get something presentable. Tadeusz enthusiastically told me in his Polish flavor of English: “I go with you and help you!” We arrived at the mall and started shopping. Tadeusz didn’t speak Lithuanian but he and the older staff could understand each other in Russian.

He talked to a lady for a few minutes and suddenly I got the best service I’ve ever received in a store. We quickly found the perfect outfit and they even called up a seamstress late at night to come to the mall and adjust my suit.

I later found out that Tadeusz had told them that I was having a meeting with the prime minister the next day. That was essentially true, although I’m not sure he mentioned that there would be a few hundred other people at the opening reception.

His good nature, his enthusiasm, his presence, and his smile will always be an inspiration to me. I feel very thankful for the wonderful moments we have spent together. Thank you Tadeusz, for showing me how to live a good life.

My favorite kind of awesome

Kara Swisher, while writing about the departure of Apple’s Katie Cotton, describes my favorite kind of awesome:

Was she aggressive? Sure. Did she sometimes ice our reporters out, ignore calls or reply with newsless answers? Sometimes. Did she try her hardest to showcase Apple and its products in a way that benefited it? Yep. Was she vocal when she did not like something we did? And how. That kind of hard driving is part and parcel to the business, even if she was harder driving and, because of that, more successful than most.

Zeal and excellence.

Google in the bedroom

Nest is watching you.Google has acquired Nest for $3.2 billion in cash. Why so much money? Because if you are a Nest customer, the company collects a wealth of information from every room of your house. Thermostats and smoke detecters sense when you’re home and which room you’re in.

At the time of the acquisition, one week ago, Nest CEO Tony Fadell was very clear about their commitment to privacy:

“There’s perception and there’s reality, and the reality of the situation is that the Nest data will stay with Nest. Our SLA will not change, our Terms of Service will not change. Nest data will be used to improve Nest data, that’s all.”

One week later, not so much:

“At this point, there are no changes … The data that we collect is all about our products and improving them,” he said. “If there are ever any changes, we will be transparent about it.”

Next week? Who knows.

Tony Fadell talked about his meeting with Google’s Larry Page:

“We were finishing each other’s sentences and the visions that we had were just so large and so great and they weren’t scared by them.”

Former Apple CEO Jean-Louis Gassée remembers the time when Steve Jobs and John Scully were “finishing each other’s sentences.”

It’s a shame. Nest was very cool. That coolness now comes at a price I’m unwilling to pay.

One Tablet Per Child

One Tablet Per ChildThe Verge:

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is unveiling two new low-cost tablets today that are designed around young children’s education. The tablets will be released this spring, with the XO-2 selling for $149.99 and the XO-10 selling for $199.99. Though OLPC’s software is the first thing you’ll see when the tablet turns on, Android and the Google Play Store are fully accessible behind it.

The old OLPC had a revolutionary price and pretty much failed. With Kindle Fire starting at $139, the price is not an advantage but the support for Android may at least prevent it from being a non-starter.