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Apple Mulling App-Sharing System for iPhone Users

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The Zune isn’t all bad. First of all, there’s the Zune HD, which at least looks really good. And then there’s the ability to share music and other media content via Wi-Fi with your other Zune-toting friends (is there really a group of people where more than one member has a Zune?) so that they can check out what you’re into without making a purchase they might regret or getting your headphones all gross and earwaxy.

Apple (s aapl) looks to be thinking about borrowing a page from Microsoft’s (s msft) playbook for once, in that if BusinessWeek is correct, the company is planning on doing a similar thing with apps downloaded from the iPhone and iPod touch’s App Store. According to BusinessWeek’s source, who is listed only as someone familiar with the technology, Apple has baked into iPhone 3.0 the ability for users to share software with one another.

The apparent intent behind the app-sharing service is that users will then be prompted to buy apps they enjoy that their friends have shown them. The source seems unsure whether Apple plans to flip the switch that would render the sharing services active. An Apple spokeswoman, when contacted, said only that the company has “made no announcements at this time.” I wish I was an Apple PR rep. You spend all day coming up with new ways to say “no comment.”

The ability to share apps via peer-to-peer connections helps Apple in two ways. First, it solves the problem of not offering try-before-you-buy limited versions of all apps for users to test out (“lite” and other duplicate apps released at the discretion of developers notwithstanding). Second, it builds a “street team” that’s millions of users strong, so to speak. Why pay for promotion when you can enlist your own users to do it for you?

Sharing will definitely be temporary, so don’t start imagining an app exchange community where you pool your resources and split the cost of, say, every major game release that comes out. Little else is mentioned about the program’s specifics, though. In a perfect world, you’d have the option to purchase right away following an instance of app sharing, and you’d be able to set strict privacy settings to prevent just anyone on the street from trying to share apps with you.

I agree with BusinessWeek that the future of the iPhone (and all smartphone devices) lies in more and improved P2P functions, and a way to share content directly between devices without any third-party intermediary definitely seems like the next logical step. Then again, opening those doors could also open the floodgates to more and improved piracy, too, which maybe explains why the tech is lying dormant for now.

8 Responses to “Apple Mulling App-Sharing System for iPhone Users”

  1. @Raj that would be a nice idea, but I think it would piss developers off a little more than necessary – when you’ve got a sale, the last thing you want is for it to be taken away from you with no given reason. Also, this would be costly for Apple due to administration fees for transferring money BACK to customers, despite the fact that they’ve still used the bandwidth to download the app in the first place.

    @Splyntyr I agree – it doesn’t negate the need for “lite” versions. I’m curious to know how this will affect devs – will devs have any knowledge of the fact their app has been shared? Will devs have the option to allow their apps to be shared or not? And how long would the shared app work for on the iPhone – one day, one use, a week?

    I think the idea of “peer to peer” sharing is actually slightly misguided. The idea that you would actually transfer the app from one iPhone to another over Bluetooth or Wifi is unlikely. From what I know, the user’s preferences are also stored in the app file itself. So instead, it’s more likely that when a user shares an app, it would show up on the other iPhone as an alert enabling you to download the app from the App Store for free.

    Sharing sounds great, but there’s a lot of questions that still need answering.

  2. Splyntyr

    How does offering app sharing eliminate the need for “lite” versions of apps? Presumably you can only try an app if someone you know has purchased it. If I don’t know someone who has purchased an app, I still would need a lite version to try for myself.

  3. I’ve been wondering for quite some time why Apple doesn’t simply automatically refund your money if you delete the app from your iPhone within 1-2 days of purchase.

  4. I think overall this would be an interesting concept for Apple to be open to. I’m not sure they would go for it or not, being how 1 sided they can be with all their T&C’s.

    Hell watch them only do it in the US, because everywhere else’s copyright laws are either to stringent or not stringent enough.