I said I would write this a few weeks ago. This are the methods of getting software onto your IOS device if you’re not actually capable of writing it yourself. (thanks @jearle) Some of them are obvious, some less so.
The App Store
The first and most obvious method of getting software onto your iOS device is via the App Store. Developers have to purchase a certificate from Apple but the developer tools are free. There are restrictions on what software goes on there and obviously 30% of any money made through direct sales is given to Apple.
Enterprise App Store
For organisations who require their own private App Store, Enterprise App Stores are a way to do it. It’s a way that a government or a corporation can provide apps to their staff with little risk of it leaking into others hands. It’s restrictive but it’s an option. This won’t be an option for most but I do wonder whether some enterprising schools could consider this as an option. There is a University option too (thanks @georgemoore)
The third way that people seem to get software on their devices is Jailbreak. I’ve no issues with people getting software this way, especially for stuff that can’t make it onto the App Store for whatever reason. I do have an issue with a lot of people who use Jailbreak to score free (pirated) versions of software that’s on the App Store. Software developers have to eat, like everyone else.
Ad Hoc Distribution
A lone developer can have some success in distributing software for up to 100 devices. For a small company or for something exceedingly specialised (and licensed rather than bought), it’s a great option. It’s just the cost of the certificate and there were services that made ad-hoc distribution a lot easier. Some of them seem to have gone quiet with the changes in IOS6. You’re limited to 100 which is a pain and Apple doesn’t like this being used to distribute software.
As I’m a registered developer (which we use for testing and learning more than actual software development), I can take any unsigned software package (in binary, source code or mixed) and sign it and install it on my devices. The cost for this is just the developer license I already have. It could be an option for some very specialised software that the unsigned executables are what is sold/licensed. I’m kinda surprised that this method hasn’t been used by MIT for Scratch (as it was developed, then rejected from the Store) and I’m sure that some genius could produce an integrated development environment that runs entirely on the iPad and licensed to other developers.
And lastly….and maybe better explained as a “sixth” way…
And then there’s the web. Which is obviously the easiest way to get software onto an iPad. Quality is usually an issue (which is frankly more to do with browser technology than the developers behind the web apps).