Of course, there had been apps before the App Store. BlackBerry and Palm users had been hunting down new programs on the Internet for years before Apple decided to enter the game. But it wasn't easy—there was no great directory of apps, no vetting process to ensure an app worked properly, and the development communities, while enthusiastic, were decidedly limited in size. Finding a new smartphone app was like wandering into an old-world bazaar, where you're not sure exactly what you're getting, if it'll work, or if there's something better at the booth next door. That all changed last year.
The App Store wasn't a new idea, but it was better executed than anything we'd ever seen. Instantly, the capabilities of the iPhone were unlimited, and went further off the rails with easy and fast unlocking. The iPhone very suddenly stopped being a device and started acting like a platform. Soon, all sides of software development started busting out amazing apps, from giant game developers to magazines to guys working day and night in their basement on a labor of love.
It hasn't been without its problems; any reader of this site knows Apple's approval policy is sometimes draconian and unfair, and of course there's an influx of garbage (flashlight apps, anyone?) along with all the great stuff. But nobody, not even the most fervent Apple-hater, could deny the impact of the App Store. Now everybody and their mother has their own spin on it, and no smartphone maker in their right mind would consider releasing a product without a centralized depository of software. But Apple's is still the largest and the best in addition to being the first.
So today, on the anniversary of its launch (which was not July 7th, despite what others may have you believe—it was announced July 7th, and released July 11th), we salute the App Store. Happy 1st birthday, App Store, and as long as you keep bringing the goods, we'll keep rounding them up, every week.