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A mobile platform is only as successful as its app store

  
  
  

describe the imageby Ron Miller
Ness Blogger

Yesterday while speaking at the Goldman Sachs conference, Apple CEO told the audience a data nugget that should please developers. Apple has paid out more than $8 billion to developers to date from app store generated revenue.

As The Next Web reports, what's really interesting about this data point is that it increased a whopping billion dollars since the last report on January 7th. Apple now has 775,000 apps in the app store. It's hard to find firm numbers on Google Play, but ReadWrite estimates it's in the same neighborhood and growing faster.

Let's contrast that with the Microsoft Windows Phone Store, which according an article on CNET at the end of last year, stood at approximately 150,000. Yes, it's doubled in the last year, and has hit all the major pieces you would expect from Angry Birds to Dropbox, but it's still well behind the market leaders. According to BusinessInsider, BlackBerry's App World contains 70,000 apps for the new BlackBerry 10 OS -- which they facetiously add are, "just not the ones you want."

So what does all this mean? When you compare smartphone market share numbers to app store success, you start to see a clear picture as the latest comScore US market share numbers illustrate.  As you can see from the chart below, as is widely known, Google and Apple control the vast majority of market share, while Microsoft and BlackBerry are way back in the pack.

comscore dec 2012 us smartphone market

Chart courtesy of comScore

Now, to be fair, Apple and Google also have had a significant head start on the competition, but the correlation is clear that consumers want apps and tend to choose phones based on the apps they can run on those devices.  And as we wrote a couple of weeks ago in this space, if consumers follow the apps, developers tend to go where the consumers are.

That means the challenge facing Microsoft and BlackBerry when it comes to making any significant gains on the market leaders is more than producing decent phones. I think it's safe to say that both companies have done that, but it's not simply a matter of building a desirable handset. People want more than a pretty face. They want to know they can access a variety of apps.

From a developer perspective, it only makes sense to go where the most people are, and that means even if Microsoft and BlackBerry make it very comfortable for developers to come on board with robust development tools and even monetary incentives to create apps, it's still an uphill battle for competitors because right now the economics are simply working against them.

Numbers may not always tell the story in terms of quality, but consumers and developers are driving the success of Apple and Google by working together in a symbiotic spiral that seems to perpetuate Apple and Google's continued dominance in the smartphone space.

Even developers who may tire of Apple's approval process cannot ignore the amount of money you can make on the iOS platform, and even if a developer wants to give the other guys a chance, the numbers simply don't justify it. Until you have market share, what's the point, and without apps, there is no market share. It's going to be a tough cycle of success to break.

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

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