By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
July 10, 2008

Four months after Steve Jobs first announced it, Apple’s App Store — the showcase for third-party developers writing new software for the iPhone and iPod touch — has opened its doors, at least for some users. (More on that below.)

The timing of the launch was apparently driven by New Zealand, where the iPhone 3G was set to go on sale at 12:01 a.m., Friday July 11. Given the time difference, that dictated an opening in the United States no later than 8:01 a.m. EDT on Thursday.

What will you find in the App Store? There are already 26 full pages of programs, with 21 applications on each, and according to Apple (AAPL) there’s a lot more to come.

In interviews with the New York Times and USA Today, Steve Jobs offered a few statistics:

  • More than 500 programs
  • 90% of them $9.99 or less
  • 25% of them free
  • One third of them games

In addition to games, the store is expected to offer lots of educational programs, mobile commerce and business productivity tools.

Matt Murphy, a partner in the fund set up by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to invest $100 million in iPhone apps, told the Times that he expects games, health care, social networking, mobile commerce and location-based services to be the most popular types of software.

“An application that would allow Bay Area surfers to check tides and network with other surfers failed to past muster” with the fund, according to the Times. (link; log-in required)

Most applications written for the iPhone 3G are expected to run on the original iPhone and the iPod touch. The App Store is available as a free download for owners of the old iPhone and will cost $9.99 for iPod touch owners.

The store requires that users first download iTunes 7.7, which Apple’s Software Update describes as follows:

Use iTunes 7.7 to sync music, video, and more with iPhone 3G, and download applications from the iTunes Store exclusively designed for iPhone and iPod touch with software version 2.0 or later. Also use the new Remote application for iPhone or iPod touch to control iTunes playback from anywhere in your home — a free download from the App Store.

The iPhone 2.0 software update is required to actually run programs for sale on the store, so it’s only fully functional for owners of first-generation iPhones and iPod touches who have updated their devices or, presumably, New Zealanders who bought the first iPhone 3Gs.

But once your iTunes is up-to-date, you can browse the full array of 551 programs immediately available, arranged alphabetically from “A Christmas Carol” and “A Discourse on Reason” (there are a surprising number of books) to zintin and Zipcodes. Plus a handful of programs whose names start with numbers or are written in Chinese characters.

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