Monday, July 20, 2009

Apps Stores: Fad or the Future?

Last week Apple’s app store reached another milestone with 1.5 billion downloads and now supports over 65,000 applications.

So on the same day that O2 launches a £10,000 prize for the best iPhone application voted by its iPhone members, Google believe the app store days are numbered and others say that the app craze is going to just go on getting bigger. Who is right and who is wrong? What are the issues driving this demand and is it a fad or the start of something big?

In a drive to incentivise and reward developers and grow customer loyalty O2 has launched a two month, £10,000 prize competition to select the best iPhone app. The key criteria for the winner will be an app that can ‘help build a lasting relationship between O2 and its iPhone customers.’

Ilja Laurs, CEO of GetJar, a leading independent application predicts that there will be a peak of around 100,000 apps by the end of the year, but with a failure rate of some 90%, he questions whether the lack of revenue will force a rethinking of the current development environment. Will consumers pay and play once, or adopt the apps into their lifestyle? Are apps essential tools and fulfilling real demand, or mere novelty and fashion fads

Symbian’s Lee Williams believes that the app store model is flawed in that it offers too much unwanted stuff and not enough relevant content and applications that will help enrich or add value to a user’s life.

Vic Gundotra, Google's engineering VP believes the app store is a fad and that the focus will shift to powerful browsers. Obviously Google is investing heavily in the Chrome browser, the Android operating system and search, all of which they see as platform and device independent. Therefore it makes sense for them to dismiss apps as a fad.

The question today appears to be one of mobile bandwidth and the lack of interoperability of applications, making development a nightmare and consumer choice complex. Tomorrow the game would appear to be moving towards one app across multiple platforms, devices, carriers, but this requires that all so elusive collaborative thinking and approach that is often lost in today’s ‘exclusive’ world.

What is clear is that app development is a gambling business today and one many will loose their shirt on and one that a few will find very rewarding.

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