But, as I said, even if Apple hasn’t reformed its bad old ways, it has grown a whole lot wiser. And, in one of the most brilliant strategic moves in its history, the company opened the door more than a year ago to outside developers to create their own proprietary application programs for the iPhone (and iPod Touch) to be sold through the Apple Store. Here, too, serendipity has been Apple’s friend: economic downturns are always times for a burst of entrepreneurial energy as the unemployed and underemployed use the downtime to start new enterprises and then give them a running start. But this crash has been unique in high tech history not only for its depth and duration, but also because, for the first, time, the venture capital industry (largely because of government regulation) is paralyzed and little investment money is available.
This entrepreneurial energy needs to go somewhere … and where much of it has headed is toward the design of iPhone apps. The sheer number of these apps that have been created in just 18 months is absolutely mind-boggling: more than 100,000 different programs, from guitar tuners to restaurant ratings to burp generators, and everything else you can imagine. It is one of the greatest outpourings of small, independent entrepreneurship in American business history, and all supported by the Apple Store. There have been more than 1 billion iPhone app downloads.