To all who thought the iPhone was the greatest achievement in the '00s, I think you are somewhat wrong. Instead, I believe it is Apple's App Store that deserves a majority of the credit. The App Store is the platform that really enabled the iPhone to shine, and, without it, the world might be very different.
ABI Research is predicting that 5 billion smart phone applications will be downloaded worldwide by 2014. To compare, there were 2.3 billion mobile applications in 2009. This means that in 4-years time, mobile application downloads will be double what they are today.
That's a pretty big leap.
With that, you would have to assume that smart phone sales would possibly double as well.
If data and voice pricing for mobile phone providers grew more affordable in the near future, I could see this number growing even faster.
But let's get back to Apple's App Store, the platform that really kicked this into high gear.
The App Store is the platform that allows developers to create applications for the iPhone (iPod Touch and iPad too). Without it, the iPhone would be nothing more than a pretty looking phone. With it, however, the iPhone becomes the device that opens the door to a rich, social, interactive, and engaging experience — it opens the door for users to do things on their phones that were once thought meaningless or impossible.
Granted, the App Store is also a centralized place for application management and distribution, and that can sometimes cause problems. Specifically, it creates a gatekeeper, and if you don't play by the rules, you could get kicked out of this ecosystem. Some applications and developers have been mistreated, and that isn't fair.
This is why other ecosystems are being created. Google now has its own marketplace — Google Apps Marketplace — that enables developers to freely create, manage, distribute, and charge for their applications, without the interference from a gatekeeper.
But what about Windows Mobile and BlackBerry? Weren't they the ones that kicked off the mobile application craze? Well, there is no doubt that other companies did this before Apple. There were already mobile application marketplaces and devices that utilized applications. However, they were not nearly as successful as Apple's App Store.
So, Apple and the App Store, in particular, has to receive the credit for propelling these technologies forward.
Apple has not only pushed mobile technology forward, but it pushed our interests in mobile technology forward as well. As a result, hardware manufacturers, software developers, mobile technologies, and consumers are all benefiting from their efforts. And, depending on how Apple's iPad fares, that 5 billion number could be a gross underestimate.