When 2016 was over, Apple announced that its app store business generated well over $28 billion in sales that year. While that includes sales of software for its desktop operating system, it does not include the vast quantity of applications that are given away for free (many of which enable some sort of transaction when run). By any measure, the app store is big business, and an app-store-like ecosystem has now been part of any mobile OS for years.
One of the striking things about this is that, if you believe Steve Jobs, none of this was ever supposed to be. When the original iPhone was introduced, Jobs announced its development environment: Web apps.
There’s no SDK that you need! You’ve got everything you need if you know how to write apps using the most modern Web standards to write amazing apps for the iPhone today. So developers, we think we’ve got a very sweet story for you. You can begin building your iPhone apps today.
Jobs, of course, was famous for dismissing something as irrelevant right until the moment that Apple was ready to enter that market. The tight deadlines for putting something as complicated as iOS together undoubtedly left some of its SDK in a state of flux, and all of it was poorly documented—things were likely good enough for internal app development, but not the developer community. It was easy to see Jobs' promotion of Web apps as a strategic announcement, meant to put off developer demands while the SDK was cleaned up.