Why we can't have nice apps and how Apple could fix it
Yahoo! just bought my favorite camera app for iOS, Kitcam, and removed it from the App Store. It's not the first time a great third party app has been been bought. Google has bought many apps, from the Slide apps to Nik Software apps (including Snapseed) to Sparrow. Facebook has bought Instagram, the Sofa apps, and Push Pop Press. Hell, Apple bought Siri and many others themselves. Not every third-party app that gets bought gets removed from the store, even if it's bought by Apple's biggest software competitor, Google, or an up-and-coming ones, like Facebook. (Yahoo! hasn't announced a mobile OS competitor, and may not be in the organizational shape to do so any time soon, but would be crazy not to have a project ongoing.)
This is why we can't have nice apps.
That's the grossest over-simplification of the tensions and business realties and market conditions facing app developers, but for an end user, it's a rightfully indignant one.
At the same time Microsoft is getting what passes for their shit together, finally releasing Halo for Windows Phone. While these two things might not seem to have much in common, they both highlight a problem that could be solved in the same way.
With more diverse and audacious first-party Apple apps.
Apple already makes first-party apps, of course. Not only do they make the core iOS apps, but they make all their ecosystem apps like iBooks, iTunes U, Remote, Find my [Device/Friends], and their iWork/iLife apps. They don't make or produce any first-party video games yet, or a higher-end camera app (for example), and especially not anything that could be termed experimental, but all of those things could help none-the-less push forward the state of the art of mobile.
No doubt Apple is stretched well beyond their limits already, and sprinting to get iOS 7 and associated apps ready for this fall will take more than every ounce of will and effort they can collectively muster. So, the idea of putting even more app development on their plate might sound ludicrous, or dumb enough my keyboard should be confiscated.
But people far smarter than I'll ever be have already offered suggestions for this, from farming out implementation to former engineers and designers now independent, to using these projects as mini "staycations" for current engineers and designers who need a 20%-style break from the everyday.
Gaming could benefit the most, giving Apple apps they could use to not only compete with the Halo, Ingress, Mario, Grand Turismo, and other first party titles, but apps they could use to dogfood Game Center and all their gaming, physics, audio, and other API, existing and upcoming, private and public. (A great first-party Core Data sync app would be a great, confidence building move as well.) Boutique apps that do something novel and cool with music or photography, F1 racing or coffee, or whatever else, could delight not only users, but Apple alike.
It could solve a lot of problems in a lot of interesting ways. If the competition is seen as unfair to third-party developers -- something that already occurs with iWork and iLife -- they could be listed differently, or in alternate rankings, so they don't suck attention away from the indies.
And it would insulate iOS, and its user base, against not only all the best indie iOS apps getting bought and potentially yanked so often, but the talent drain that comes with it.