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FEATURE

The Problem With Abandonware

The glut of abandoned iOS apps is creating a dangerous environment for developers

Issue: 15.3 (May/June 2017)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Author Bio: Marc taught himself programming in high school when he bought his first computer but had no money for software. He's had fun learning ever since.
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 15,129
Starting Page Number: 85
Article Number: 15306
Related Web Link(s):

http://www.nasdaq.com/article/apples-app-store-sales-exploded-in-2016-cm730410

Excerpt of article text...

I've been an iOS app user since the App Store first opened in 2008. As a software developer, the market fascinated me. There was the initial flurry of simple apps (Remember the plethora of tip calculators and fart apps?), then we got more sophisticated apps, and then the iPad came along and we had a bigger screen for even more powerful apps. The future seemed bright.

Today things are a hundred times more complicated: multiple devices with lots of different screen sizes and hardware capabilities, different operating system versions, and millions more software APIs to work with. (And that's just iOS.)

Along the way there were changes in business models. At first, most apps charged a fee up front. Then, some apps explored the ad model, while others had separate free "light" and paid "pro" versions. Later, when Apple added in-app purchases, the freemium model became the standard, with the app downloadable for free and certain features requiring payment.

The gold rush of those early days where we heard stories of teenagers or lone developers becoming millionares overnight quickly dried up as developers raced to the bottom to see who could charge the least. Today, more and more money is being made on the App Store (http://www.nasdaq.com/article/apples-app-store-sales-exploded-in-2016-cm730410), but more and more of that money is being made by a smaller subset of large software companies.

During nearly ten years in existence, the App Store has had a turbulent upbringing. While in internet time it's a senior citizen, in many ways it's just barely out of diapers. But we've now reached a critical stage where the App Store is either going to morph into something genuinely useful or fade away as a fad.

I don't mean that the App Store itself will go away, but it could disappear as a business opportunity. The only apps left will be a handful of entertainment apps by huge companies and "business essential" apps, such as those made by banks or news organizations for their customers.

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