BrainTrust Query: Is a Chink Opening in the Apple Distribution Armor?
Ever since it opened its App Store, Apple has been the envy of every business operating in the physical world. With popular computing platforms consuming applications and content, and the App Store being the only source, Apple owned the distribution channel. Consumers had to pay for content and developers had to pay a "toll" to reach Apple consumers. But now it seems a chink may be opening in Apple’s armor.
HTML5 is the latest version of the computer language used by browsers to display text and graphics and run web applications. The original HTML was developed in the early 1990’s and has gone through a tortured evolution to its latest version. To ease the evolution, HTML5 consists of a set of well defined extensions while maintaining backward compatibility with existing HTML versions. Some of these extensions address well known weaknesses, including the ability to display video files and play audio without the need to use proprietary extensions such as Adobe Flash Player or Apple QuickTime player. But another extension threatens the Apple distribution armor by making it possible to run browser based applications from a local storage cache. Web developers can now write applications that are downloaded directly into browser cache without going through the Apple tollgate.
The first organizations to squeeze through the chink have been the Financial Times and ESPN. The Financial Times seems to have been inspired by the June 30th deadline Apple set for applications that download content from outside sources. In the past, content providers with their own servers could download content directly without paying a toll. ESPN seems to have been inspired by the ability to "write once and run anywhere." By writing their application in HTML5, ESPN only has to maintain one version.
Whatever the reason, there are probably a lot of application and content providers anxious to get away from the Apple tolls. There are some limitations because specific hardware features may not be accessible, but many applications will be able to substitute HTML5 versions for their existing versions. And it is not only the providers who will benefit. Consumers should see an advantage from being able to get content from sources besides the App Store.
- Mobile Web apps escape Apple’s iron grip – CNNMoney
- DRM-free music dream haunts Apple’s app-store lock-in – The Register
Discussion Questions: Do you think consumers will benefit from getting iPad and iPhone content from other sources? What impact do you think this will have on Apple? What potential opportunities do you see for brands and retailers?