Side-Loading and Third-Party App Stores →

The biggest argument I've heard in support of side-loading and third-party app stores for iOS is:

I'm paying over $1,000 for my device. I should have the right to do whatever I want with it!

While I do agree with that sentiment, I firmly believe that would only lead to a shitty path for iOS. Marco Arment perfectly illustrates my my same sentiments:

I don’t expect side-loading or alternative app stores to become possible, and I’m relieved, because that is not a future I want for iOS.

When evaluating such ideas, I merely ask myself:

“What would Facebook do?”

Facebook owns four of the top ten apps in the world. If side-loading became possible, Facebook could remove Instagram, WhatsApp, the Facebook app, and Messenger from Apple’s App Store, requiring customers to install these extremely popular apps directly from Facebook via side-loading.

And everyone would.

And then:

Alternative app stores would be even worse. Rather than offering individual apps via side-loading, Facebook could offer just one:

The Facebook App Store.

Instagram, WhatsApp, the Facebook app, and Messenger could all be available exclusively there.

The majority of iOS users in the world would soon install it, and Facebook would start using leverage in other areas — apps’ social accounts, stats packages, app-install ads, ad-attribution requirements — to heavily incentivize (and likely strong-arm) a huge number of developers to offer their apps in the Facebook App Store, likely in addition to Apple’s.

Maybe I’d be required to add the Facebook SDK to my app in order to be in their store, which they would then use to surveil my users.

Maybe I’d need to buy app-install ads to show up in search there at all.

Maybe I’d need to pay Facebook to “promote” each app update to reach more than a tiny percentage of my existing customers.

This would be true for any conglomerate, including Amazon and Google. But I'm specifically concerned about Facebook.

We all know how much Zuckerberg hates Apple for implementing so many tracking-prevention measures that harms Facebook's business model. There's no doubt in my mind that Facebook would leverage its apps against Apple.

Project Marzipan →

As reported back in December by Mark Gurman in Bloomberg:

Starting as early as next year, software developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware…

Developers currently must design two different apps -- one for iOS, the operating system of Apple’s mobile devices, and one for macOS, the system that runs Macs. That’s a lot more work. What’s more, Apple customers have long complained that some Mac apps get short shrift…With a single app for all machines, Mac, iPad and iPhone users will get new features and updates at the same time…

Apple is developing the strategy as part of the next major iOS and macOS updates…Codenamed “Marzipan,” the secret project is planned as a multiyear effort that will start rolling out as early as next year…

Simply put, Apple is taking key foundations of iOS and putting it in macOS in an effort to inject the abundance of iOS developer enthusiasm from mobile into desktop.

As I've talked before, this comes at a really interesting time for desktop computers:

  • iOS apps are still a booming business
  • Android apps continue to grow in revenue
  • cross-platform desktop apps based on Electron are growing popular
  • Progressive Web Apps are a rising technology that will bring the massive reach of native-like web apps to all devices

These trends all point to one big question — what is the future of desktop apps?

Services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Amazon will never need the full-blown robustness of a native Mac/Windows desktop app; they'll be able to get by just fine as Progressive Web Apps, especially since Chrome OS and Windows are pushing so hard for the technology.

But what happens to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Amazon when they get much better user engagement when they port their iOS apps to Mac?

Desktop apps will always be more powerful than mobile apps. And mobile apps will always be more powerful than Web Apps. But maybe, if this Marzipan thing gains traction, the future of mobile & desktop ends up being three main platforms — Marzipan for iOS & Mac, Android for non-iPhones, and then Progressive Web App for literally everything else.

Rumor: Apple to Converge iOS, macOS Apps →

Rene Ritchie:

For Microsoft, shifting to universal apps was a way to shed legacy baggage and encourage support for post-PC devices. For Google, bringing Android apps to Chrome let them tap into native functionality and performance.

For Apple, it lets the massive iOS platform help pull the Mac platform forward.

If true, this would be another classic case of Apple copying an idea where that others have failed to execute.

It's a brilliant idea but the success or failure of this type of move would come down to the nitty gritty details that will affect iOS/macOS developers.

Technology is like Fashion →

Benedict Evans brilliantly draws parallels between technology and fashion:

There's a common idea that in some way fashion designers get together in a room and decide what the fashion will be next year. That's a pretty fundamental misunderstanding. Rather, they propose what might fit the zeitgeist. Sometimes that's incremental and sometimes it's a radical break - sometimes the pendulum needs to swing from one extreme to another. Sometimes they get it wrong, but when they get it right it captures an age. The New Look proposed that people wanted to move on from the clothes of wartime austerity, and from austerity itself, and that this was a good way to do it, and Dior was right.

I'm reminded of these kinds of shifts when thinking about Facebook and how much it can change behaviours - about how much it can decide what the new thing will be. After all, social media has now moved far past the point that it serves any kind of purely utilitarian purpose. There was a time when instant messaging or the asymmetric feed were simply better person-to-person mechanics than email (as one could argue that Slack is now). Now, though, we're shifting around at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, experimenting with different ways to explore and express our personality and our needs, and so, in a sense, of the zeitgeist. Many of these trends have also expressed the same sense of a pendulum - we swung from the chaos of MySpace to the structured order of Facebook, and then swung again to the fun and exuberance and creativity of Snap (or at any rate that Snap aspires to have). But Snap of course is not the only one - sitting on top of the smartphone, which is itself a social platform, there are dozens of apps and experiences, from GIF keyboards to live streaming apps to animoji, all trying to capture a little piece of Maslow. Social is pop culture. […]

Indeed, when something becomes fashionable, it will inevitably become unfashionable - "no-one goes there anymore - it's too crowded". The zeitgeist changes both of itself and because of your success. So the very fact that any social media company has found a behaviour that people want means that at some point they'll stop wanting it. People stopped wearing the new look, they stopped wearing miniskirts, and they stopped wearing punk. There is always a pendulum.

2007: "The iPod Killer" →

Jason Kottke, just after the original iPhone was announced in January 2007:

I guess we know why iPod development has seemed a little sluggish lately. When the Zune came out two months ago, it was thought that maybe Apple was falling behind, coasting on the fumes of an aging product line, and not innovating in the portable music player space anymore. I think the iPhone puts this discussion on the back burner for now. And the Zune? The supposed iPod-killer’s bullet ricocheted off of the iPhone’s smooth buttonless interface and is heading back in the wrong direction.

Sounds just like today, critics preaching a similar narrative: "The iPhone is boring, Apple can't innovate anymore."