• 100,000 Apps on iTunes. So?

    Apple announced today the App Store had passed the 100,000 mark, with more than 2 billion individual downloads in the 481 days since it went online with just 500 applications on July 11, 2008. At the same time, a new study revealed that few of these apps are ever installed.

    Apple was understandably excited about the big numbers. They've made the huge number of apps available on iTunes a centerpiece of their strategy to differentiate the iPhone from its smartphone competitors. Apple’s senior vice president, Phil Schiller, crowed:

    “The App Store, now with over 100,000 applications available, is clearly a major differentiator for millions of iPhone and iPod touch customers around the world. The iPhone SDK created the first great platform for mobile applications and our customers are loving all of the amazing apps our developers are creating.”
    Despite the happy talk, Schiller is aware of, and has responded to, the back and forth between Apple and developers about the seemingly arbitrary and capricious policies governing what apps will and will not be accepted on the App Store. The ongoing Google Voice controversy is another case in point: the growing perception is that designing an iPhone app is a huge risk for developers, who may have to submit and resubmit their apps again and again because they were rejected for reasons that are never clearly explained.

    On top of that, there's a real likelihood that your app just won't sell even if it makes it on the App Store. A study done by AppsFire found that only 20,000 of the 100,000 apps will ever actually be downloaded and installed. Further, if your app is not in the top 1,000 the widest dristribution you can hope for is 1.67% of all iPhones and iPods.

    So if the diversity of applications isn't the competitive advantage Apple says it is, what's the iPhone's killer app? A study from marketing research firm comScore suggests a possibility: touch. Their report shows that the number of touchscreen-enabled phones grew by 159% last year - with a third of that number represented by the iPhone. With arguably the best touchscreen interface out there, Apple is clearly dominant in this area: the next most popular touchscreen phone is the LG Dare, with market share a quarter that of the iPhone's at 8.7%. Android may yet challenge Apple's title, which is why it would behoove Apple to continue improving its interface - with help from non-App Store developers - rather than filling iTunes with more and more apps.

    image via AppsFire
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