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Apple You DIDN'T Invent the App Store!

Apple You DIDN'T Invent the App Store!

Apple is making a preposterous claim to the trademark office that they invented the app store concept and name and they're asking a Judge to stop Amazon from even using the words "app store". It's baffling why such a phenomenal company who is trouncing the competition needs to resort to underhanded legal tactics, but I want to set the record straight that Apple neither invented the concept nor the term. Amazon and anyone else should be able to use the generic term application (or app) store.

In their legal papers Apple misstates computer history to build their case as the inventor of the application store. Apple says, "...nothing like the App Store has ever been attempted before." They go on to say that, "the term app store was not in general use" before July 8th, 2008 when they launched their version for the iPhone.

A trip back in time reveals at least one popular one-click store which predates Apple's attempt by at least 5 years. I know because I built it. It was a service called "Click-N-Run" (or CNR) made by a company I founded called Linspire. Rather than having to search all over the net for software to add to your PC I thought it would be ideal to have one giant catalog which lists all available applications. Rather than have a cumbersome multi-step software installation process (which was even worse under Linux) it should just be one click. With CNR a single mouse click would download and install the software so it was ready to run; hence the name Click-N-Run. You can watch a 25 sec video here of selecting an app, having it download (watch green progress bar at the bottom) and then be put into the menu on the PC ready to launch.

Wikipedia says CNR made "Linux applications easy to download, install and use" and that CNR had an "extensive library of applications available". Along with free applications CNR had a store where people could purchase applications all with the same single click ease. Popular items sold were games, office productivity, and virus protection.

Before Apple launched their store more than 9 million applications had been installed using CNR from a library of more than 45,000 titles. When Apple released their app store astute reporters noted the similarities to CNR. From ITWorld "the concept of a single-stop location from which you could download applications wasn't invented by Apple (the Lindows Linux OS had a desktop version, called "Click 'n' Run)".

Click-N-Run (CNR)
Click-N-Run

I'm not trying to claim credit for inventing the app store concept. Linspire does deserve credit for building a graphical interface around a nicely-categorized application library and making it one-click easy. However, a big chunk of the underlying technology about how to install the software was created by the Linux community. One example is APT (Advanced Packaging Tool). Although ugly and requiring the typing of commands rather than clicking, one could argue that this app store pre-dates CNR.

It irks me when companies try to use legal tactics to block legitimate competition. When I built Linspire, Microsoft tried to rewrite history, claimed they invented "Windows" and prevented anyone else from using it or anything close to it (e.g. Lindows). Apparently, Apple has stolen Microsoft's playbook.

And like the term "Windows", "App Store" is a generic computing term that was in use prior to Apple's product. App store was used by reporters, competitors and dictionaries to describe a category not Apple's service. There's no question Apple's app store is hugely popular but that doesn't mean they invented it or can block others like Amazon or Google from competing. Please Apple, just compete in the marketplace by making great products for a great price.

--MR
michael@michaelrobertson.com





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