A little over a month ago I attended the Mobile World Congress (MWC) for the fifth time. There’s always one specific topic that stays top of mind for me as the main focus of each event. Last year it was mobile content distribution, and this year a large amount of attention was focused on tablets. One thing that struck me is the large number of manufacturers jumping to tablets and, more specifically, the amount who are jumping to Android.
There was something very different about mobile content this year from previous years. Sure, every year the major OS platforms and device manufacturers showcase a selection of cool apps that developers have built on their platforms, but this year the attention for developers was overwhelming. Every big player had a large selection of developers on their booths, with Google leading the pack with dozens of app developers demonstrating their Android apps on the exhibition floor. There was even a group of developers that had demonstration booths running concurrently at several manufacturer booths. Every single presentation from each of the OS platform players included talk about how developers were embracing their platform, and how they help them distribute their content and build a successful business.
The position of the developer has change dramatically over the last five years. Yes, we still live in a fragmented mobile app world that does not make developing apps very easy. What has changed, however, is the power and respect that developers are now receiving. A few years back you were one of the happy few if you could get your app pre-installed on devices and carrier portals – let alone that one of the OS platform players would invite you to join their booth at MWC. The tables are turning, and developers of successful content now have a great influence on the success of platforms, and the big players in the market are fighting for developer attention.
As for distributing their content, developers can now choose from over 50 different stores. Based on our data and the conversations we have with developers, this is our take on developments for this year for the largest stores that were also present at MWC:
Android Market content will get on par with Apple App Store for iPhone
Based on the content growth rates of both stores, we expect the Android Market to offer a comparable amount of applications as the Apple App Store for iPhone within 2011. The US Android Market has already overtaken the Apple App Store for iPhone in terms of the number of free apps, and if Android keeps attracting developers at this speed, it’s even likely to outgrow the catalogue of Apple.
Windows Phone 7 is set for rapid content growth
Since its launch in December 2010 developers are rapidly embracing the new Windows 7 platform and marketplace. Windows Phone 7 Marketplace added 30 percent more content in January 2011, and now offers over 10,000 apps, with a growth that continues to increase month-on-month.
BlackBerry App World continues to grow steadily
During the last two years App World has demonstrated steady growth. It is not one of the top three stores in terms of available content, but it keeps attracting developers at a steady pace. The store now offers 22,000 apps, and with the launch of the PlayBook can also offer developers the opportunity to reach tablet users.
Nokia Ovi Store is not going away
Nokia clearly announced that Ovi Store will remain the channel to distribute content to the still growing Symbian user base, in spite of its deal with Microsoft. Since the partnership announcement we have not seen a decrease in content growth.
Alternative Android Stores
We may well have witnessed the start of the race for alternative Android channels outside the Android Market, with Amazon launching an Android Store and independent app store GetJar raising a round of funding to focus on Android distribution. Both Amazon and GetJar have significant market reach to draw substantial consumer attention.
Aside from these developments, 2011 appears to be the year when developers will truly go cross-device. Distribution channels are now beyond mobile. The stores of Apple, Google, BlackBerry, Samsung and Palm will enable developers to reach devices ranging from phones to tablets to Macs and TVs. We recently saw the first group of developers with successful content on iPhone or iPad enter the Mac Store, and expect this trend will increase heavily over the course of 2011.
This year, the battle for developers among platforms is set to be fiercer than ever before. The fact that a developer simply cannot support all platforms and stores in the market, combined with the increased power that developers are getting, makes it very interesting to closely monitor where they will place their bets.
Vincent Hoogsteder is CEO and co-founder of Distimo, a globally recognised app store analytics company built to solve the challenges created by a widely fragmented app store marketplace filled with equally fragmented information and statistics.
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.