Apple launched the iPhone 4 Free Bumper or Case programme yeterday with little hoopla. You download a free app, verify your iTunes account and pick one of the cases they have pre-selected. iLounge has a great review of the cases on offer.
This app is, if you think about it, an Apple Store app. Not an iTunes store app or an App Store app, but one where you can order physical goods using your iTunes ID. Apple spoke recently about there being 150 million credit cards linked to iTunes accounts and this provides an easy way for Apple to verify identities, ship to paying customers and establish an interesting precedent.
Apple currently takes 30% of all purchases and while this may work for digital content (where the cost of distribution is trending to zero), there’s no way that a company which ships physical product (atoms) could afford to give away 30% to Apple. This means that third parties who ship atoms have to establish their own stores and provide their own merchant accounts. If Apple could facilitate the selling process (albeit for a much smaller fee), then I think they could quickly gain a presence in the shipping of physical items.
On the other hand, they may leave that to Amazon or eBay to manage.
If, on the other hand, you fancy an App for your own physical store (presumably selling boutique atoms), you should probably get in touch. I don’t develop apps (and am not associated with any companies which do) but I have some friends in some of the best iPhone development contracting companies who have done some astounding work and can provide some good references.