Imagine for a moment that you are a brilliant person. Are you with me so far? Ok, now imagine that you’ve created a software application that everyone wants. Maybe it’s Lotus 123, or Mathematica, Doom, or a screensaver with flying toasters.
Imagine then, that as you went to sell your application, Microsoft charged a tax for it to run on Windows (or Apple for it to run on Macs). Given the freedom we have to install whatever we want on our personal computers, this situation sounds absurd and unacceptable.
This is pretty much how it works for iPhone applications. In order for anyone to actually use your brilliant new application, you have to give Apple a 30% cut of the purchase (Palm plans to do the same the Pre, and Google for Android phones, but more on that later).
Of course, Apple has the right to charge for this distribution service. They provide bandwidth, quality control, visibility, and do most of it quite well. The problem arises, though, when Apple intentionally precludes any alternative distribution methods for iPhone applications.
If Microsoft (or Apple) decided tomorrow that the only way to install applications on Windows was through a Microsoft owned and controlled distribution system (let alone take a 30% cut), we wouldn’t accept it. There would be overturning of cars.
The trouble isn’t that Apple charges for their application distribution system. The trouble is that it’s the only means of distribution for iPhone applications. It seems unclear if Palm is going to make the same mistakes with their Pre/WebOS platform as Palm’s position on “home-brew” applications isn’t yet clear (even the term “home-brew” is a bit troubling, as it seems to imply negative connotations to non-Palm-distributed apps).
Google can do whatever they want with the Android marketplace, because you don’t have to use it - you can install applications on Android phones without using the centralized marketplace system.
Why do we accept this system for phones when we wouldn’t for our laptops?