In developing this argument, Zittrain and others have tended to contrast PC development (open to all) with iPhone development (closed and controlled by Apple). The first edition of his book was written before the iPhone API was released and the remarkably successful App Store(TM) was released. Subsequent editions/additions to the book have finessed the argument but by and large people still believe that a manufacturer controlled smartphone with software development policed by the manufacturer is a bad thing for innovation and hence generatively.
|Historical PC/Windows Package vs iOS Package Development per year|
Now PC software is available from thousands of sources, not just this single aggregator, and so the number of Windows packages here is clearly underestimated, while the iOS figure is accurate (by the nature of a closed, single manufacturer environment). Still, it is not the number of downloads which is important, and which scales with the number of distribution channels, but the number of software packages that have been created. Since download.com is such a significant source of PC software, we might expect that it would provide a not-insignificant fraction of software that is available to the general public.
So, given the arguments made about innovation and open platforms, it is interesting that there is such a difference between these figures for the two platforms in favour of the closed environment. That might suggest the amount of innovation stimulated by the iPhone is significant in comparison to the PC, that the development of the next generation of Web environments could be triggered by an iPhone-like ecosystem and not throttled by it, and that the future of the Internet is not so alarmingly threatened as some have thought.
This naive investigation and its results are an excuse for further investigation into how we theorise and predict the emergence of future web developments. The Web, after all, is not defined by the particular experience of a browser on a computer (desktop, laptop, netbook or smartphone), but by the interaction of informational and social agents.