Somewhere at a computer last Wednesday, a developer pushed a button and the one millionth mobile app went to market.
Apps shrink the programs that were once available only on a desktop computer to make them usable on smartphones and mobile devices - stock trades, restaurant reviews, Facebook, streaming radio, photographs, news articles, videos and, of course, Angry Birds.
The pace of new app development dwarfs the release of other kinds of media. "Every week about 100 movies get released worldwide, along with about 250 books," said Anindya Datta, the founder and chairman of Mobilewalla, which helps users navigate the mobile app market. "That compares to the release of around 15,000 apps per week."
According to Mobilewalla, in a fairly quiet 14 days before the release of app No. 1,000,000, an average of 543 apps were released each day for Android-based devices, and an average of 745 apps hit the market daily for the iPhone, iPad and iTouch. The total for the two weeks across the Apple, Android, BlackBerry and Windows platforms was 20,738.
A product was counted each time it was designed for a different device in the climb to a million apps. So when Urbanspoon was released for iPhone, BlackBerry, iPad and Android, it was counted four times because each platform demands different code from the developers.
By any measure, the rise in apps is striking. In October 2008 the known app universe was 8,000 Apple titles. Mobilewalla was formed that year to provide a Web site for users to search for mobile apps, and to categorize and rank them.
Mobilewalla began analyzing Android and Windows apps in 2009, and added BlackBerry a year later. The 100,000-app milestone was passed in December 2009. In little more than a year, the total passed 500,000 and exceeded 750,000 six months after that. Five months later: one million.
For Dr. Datta, the surge in apps and the ability of almost anyone to bring an app to market is a chicken-and-egg story. Developers who have created fewer than 10 apps make up 80 percent of the producers, he said. "Anyone with a good idea can outsource the code, and they own a new app." In January, Mobilewalla will begin tracking ranking, downloads and revenue for individual apps
Brad Hunstable, a co-founder and the chief executive of Ustream, an app that allows users to broadcast live video to the Internet using a smartphone, or watch video anywhere, explained how the world has changed. Building an app for a phone five years ago meant going through the carrier, and contending with hardware and quality assurance issues, he said. "Now anyone can build for a platform," he said.
Adding to prime conditions for app development is what Mr. Hunstable called the "convergence of the app ecosystem," a world with more powerful devices, higher quality networks and high-resolution cameras.
"It's an exciting time to be a developer for mobile," said Thomas Chung, a vice president and general manager of the Playforge, a developer based in San Mateo, Calif.
The Playforge released Zombie Farm, a role-playing game, in February 2010 for Apple, and an Android version in October 2011. On Friday, it was the top game in its category on Mobilewalla.com. Lower barriers to entry have prompted an explosion of content in the last few years, he said.
"The market has become more consumer-facing, too," he said. "A lot of people can download applications now, and it's just a big win all around."
©2011 The New York Times News Service
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