I was on a panel last week about mobile app stores at the Silicon Valley China Wireless Tech Association’s Annual Conference. Dev Khare from Venrock moderated the discussion and Luke Bao from China Mobile, Curtis Sasaki from RIM, Brian Vogelsang from Qualcomm, Mark Anderson from HipLogic, and Charles Yu from hiSoft participated. The central questions: what does the democratization of mobile information - heralded by the rise of the app store - say about the future of our mobile lifestyle? What does the elimination of (now-clichéd) walled-gardens mean for everyone in the mobile value chain: developers, carriers, handset manufacturers, and end-users?
Thought I’d share a few impressions from my prep and what I learned from the panelists. First, by the numbers: five major stores have been announced to date. All are chasing Apple’s wildly popular, wildly successful App Store. To wit: can you name any of the others? They are BlackBerry’s App World, Google’s Android Market, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile Marketplace, and Palm’s webOS Application Catalog.
Apple’s App Store now has more than 85,000 applications submitted by more than 20,000 publishers and receives more than 2,000 submissions per week (new apps plus updates). 40 full time Apple-employed reviewers vet about 1,000 applications weekly and the average wait time for approval (or rejection) is about 13 days. There’s currently a backlog of about 15,000 apps pending review – growing at about 1,000 per week. And as of this week two billion apps have been downloaded, or roughly 37 per device.
So why should you care? Well, in the enterprise we technically don’t care about app stores. In fact, most of our thinking about them is confined to figuring out how they get uninstalled or disabled. They present massive security threats and make managing mobile devices infinitely more difficult. They’re poorly designed for client-server applications, aren’t policy-based, aren’t cross-platform, and don’t support internal custom apps.
But those are all reasons not to care, you say. What gives? First off, in the future there will be enterprise-oriented, private app stores. They may or may not be better than current app distribution methods like the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) but they’ll exist. More important, whether you love, hate, use, or ignore app stores they’ll continue to reinvent how we use mobile devices. And because mobile will play a prominent role in your personal and professional future, you should care about them.
Here’s an analogy: the internet existed before broadband but it was a novelty. We (that’s the royal “we” in the geek chic community) used it for IRC, bulletin boards, and primitive file sharing. As dial-up connections were replaced, the internet changed. It became interactive, colorful, and dynamic – the hub of digital lives that didn’t exist before.
Mobile is undergoing that same shift – from pimply teen to varsity quarterback – only this time it’s more dramatic, it’s happening faster, and it was triggered by the rise of app stores. All of a sudden, handhelds are computing devices that are also phones. They’re judged less by whether or not they have a speakerphone and more by their strength as platforms for social networking, e-commerce, gaming, and business. The pace of change will only accelerate in the next few years – and app stores will continue to define the mobile experience.
The postings in this blog are my own and don't necessarily represent BMC's opinion or position.