Ever since Apple launched the App Store for iPhone owners, the company has seen some serious criticism regarding its willy-nilly admittance policy. Several popular applications were not allowed into the App Store, forcing the developers of those applications to offer their work only to owners of jailbroken iPhones. From now on, that will be a whole lot easier: the first unauthorised iPhone application store is about to open up shop.
The new store will be called Cydia Store, and as you might have guessed, is an initiative of Jay Freeman, the developer of the Cydia software installer for the iPhone. “The overworking goal is to provide choice,” Freeman says, “It’s understandable that [Apple] wants to control things, but it has been very limiting for developers and users.” Freeman also said he has already hired a lawyer.
The Cydia Store will be structured in the same way as Apple’s store, and Freeman will charge developers no more than what Apple wants from iPhone developers, which is a 30% commission. Obviously, the store will be built around Cydia, and therefore will require a jailbroken iPhone. The Cydia Store won’t be the only one; two more are on their way, one of which focusses on selling adult games for the iPhone.
Sadly, it’s hard to measure how man jailbroken iPhones are out there. Freeman says that the Cydia software installer has been installed on 1.7 million iPhones, which all need to be jailbroken (since else Cydia won’t work). However, where this number is coming from is unknown.
The next question is whether or not Apple will undertake legal action, and of course if such legal action will be successful. The DMCA might give Apple some legal leverage, but some legal experts are doubtful. “Courts have said you shouldn’t use the DMCA to leverage your copyright monopoly into other markets,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. According to Crawford, courts have ruled that previous DMCA-related cases were more about stifling competition than about copyright infringement.
The arrival of “unofficial” application stores was of course inevitable thanks to Apple’s muddy App Store policies. It’s also a good thing for iPhone owners, as it gives them something Apple doesn’t want to them to have: choice. Independent application stores shouldn’t really affect Apple, since they will mostly be filled with applications the Cupertino company won’t sell in its own App Store anyway. iPhone owners benefit as well, as it will enlarge the pool of applications they can draw from.
Together with the recent news that Apple is having lots of troubles with processing iPhone developer contracts, this could be another setback for the company.
I expect this will be a tech drama with at least as much techie interest as Psystar