Happy birthday to the App Store!

Apple's online application marketplace celebrates its first anniversary as well as its success

Apple's App Store turns one year old this Saturday, July 11, and what a precocious scamp it is! In a scant year's time, it has become a trendsetter, spawning imitations from the likes of Google, Samsung, and Microsoft (Sun is the most recent company to develop its own app store). None of them, of course, have been able to duplicate the App Store's runaway success. Apple already boasts more than 1 billion app downloads, and by the latest count, the App Store offers more than 56,000 apps.

Perhaps the most interesting effect of the App Store is its implications for the desktop market. It was thought to be a radical departure from the norm when it was first introduced, but taking it from the mobile space to the desktop space, though technically difficult, could cut traditional retail software vendors out of the loop.

[ Panelists wondered if 2009 would be the Year of the App Store at this year's JavaOne conference. | InfoWorld's Neil McAllister worries that online app stores could kill developers' freedom. ]

Apple was able to leverage its existing iTunes infrastructure to make the App Store model work, and having it tied to a hot device like the iPhone probably didn't hurt, either. But if users didn't like the way the App Store works -- or the contents of the store -- this anniversary would be less than jubilant.

Apple deserves credit not only for pushing a new idea, but for making that idea work by putting the iPhone SDK directly in the hands of developers so that they can create the apps they want, and then delivering those apps through a convenient, easy-to-use interface. In fact, the App Store is likely the most exciting development in applications today; what else has been able to drum up such enthusiasm for applications and app development? iPhone users are constantly chattering about the cool new apps they're using (or making, for that matter), and that sort of user-level excitement is a great thing to see in the applications space.