Cupertino (CA) – Apple is accelerating its patent efforts cover all legal bases to protect its iPhone assets, which also includes a potentially new cash cow – the App Store. It should not come as a surprise that the company has trademarked an App Store icon that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Applications folder in Mac OS X Leopard.
Last week, the US Patent and Trademark Office published a granted a trademark for the App Store icon, showing a visual representation for the upcoming digital download store for iPhone/iPod touch that will enable users to browse, preview, purchase, download and update iPhone applications.
The App Store icon reveals more than just a passing resemblance of the Applications folder in Mac OS X. Both icons use almost identical pictogram outlining the letter “A”, constructed from a pencil, a paintbrush and a ruler. Unlike Mac OS X Leopard icons for the Applications folder, the App Store icon sports shiny dark and light blue shaded background that appears as if light streams originating from its center.
The fact that Apple decided to trademark a visual representation for the App Store is an indication just how aggressive the company is when it comes to protecting the handset. The iPhone is already covered by hundreds of patents, most of them dealing with the multi-touch user interface, an accelerometer and a proximity sensor. The proof that this was a step in the right direction became obvious at this year’s CTIA event in Las Vegas where many handset manufacturers introduced so-called iPhone killers. Competing devices either match or surpass iPhone’s hardware, but none of them replicates multi-touch, accelerometer or proximity sensor features that are covered by Apple patents.
App Store is an application that will enable iPhone and iPod touch users to browse, preview, purchase, update and wirelessly download native iPhone applications. The application shows many conceptual similarities to the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store digital music download store that became available to iPhone/iPod touch users with the January 2008 software update. The same principles are applied to browse, preview and buy music while on the go.
In fact, the App Store will be the only official way for developers to distribute native iPhone/iPod touch applications. From the developer point of view, App Store is the way to reach every iPhone and iPod touch users. Apple learned how to push paid or free digital content with iTunes and is building on this experience with App Store.
Apple graciously hands 70% of the revenues down to developers, but charges a 30% transaction fee in exchange for hosting services, digital signature (DRM), delivery, billing system and an informative web page that the users will see when researching the application in the App Store. Apple said it will also offer a capability to create a secure pages on the App Store for enterprise customers who want to limit access to these applications to their own employees.
Developers are free to set the price for their application and can decide to offer their applications as a free download – in this case, Apple won’t charge developers a fee for free apps. Although some deemed 30% too be too high, most developers appear to be happy with these terms. Typically, these services wear a hefty price tag if you have do it all by yourself – a home page for the app, file hosting, bandwidth, secure payment gateway, marketing etc. don’t come free of charge. However, 30% distribution fee is on the high end of what traditional distributors charge. Typically, the distribution fee for casual application is closer to the 20% mark.
App Store will be one of the most important software features in the upcoming iPhone 2.0 software update, due for release at the end of June. The update will be provided as a free upgrade to all iPhone users, while iPod touch users will have to pay an upgrade fee, apparently due to the differences in Apple’s internal accounting for the two devices.