Google's Android platform seems to be getting all the attention as of late, but lest anyone forget about Apple and its iPhone and iPod touch lineup, the company today announced that more than three billion apps have been downloaded from its App Store.
"Three billion applications downloaded in less than 18 months -- this is like nothing we've ever seen before," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "The revolutionary App Store offers iPhone and iPod touch users an experience unlike anything else available on other mobile devices, and we see no signs of the competition catching up anytime soon."
It will be interesting to see if Jobs' last remark holds up by the end of 2010, especially with all the Android-powered devices on tap. But in the here and now, he has reason to be cocky. Apple's App Store stands at over 100,000 apps strong, and the iPhone still remains one of the trendiest smartphones available.
Pre and the webOS have brought about Palm's revival. Now that it is back in the hunt, it can comfortably concentrate on growth. It now features nearly 950 titles and is expected to cross the 1,000 app mark after Palm's CES keynote. The pace at which apps are being added to the App Catalog is a trickle compared to the App Store, which hit the 10,000 apps mark in just six months (almost the time Palm's mobile app store has been around). The Palm App Catalog is just not in the App Store league and might never leap so high, but it is important for Palm to keep moving in the right direction.
Mozilla points to the frustration developers experience trying to get their applications onto multiple platforms. They hope Fennec will put an end to that by making web apps the standard. The Firefox creators are hoping to position the new browser to take advantage of the future of web apps, which they claim will win. But didn’t we hear this when the iPhone launched? Apparently Mozilla thinks it will be different this time around.
Mozilla is baking all sorts of goodies into the new mobile browser to try to get mobile users to make the switch. There will be a mobile version of the “Awesomebar” as well as extension support. Current Firefox users will also be able to have their history and tabs sync down to the mobile device. The browser will be out the N900 soon (betas are available now), and on Windows Mobile and Android early next year. The iPhone? Probably not.
Palm is changing up the development platform for its WebOS based devices. After a short private beta, the new Ares SDK is available to aspiring WebOS developers. While Palm’s Mojo SDK has been available for several months, Ares is different. The Ares SDK is entirely browser-based. That seems only fitting for a platform that relies so heavily on web technologies to create apps.
Palm’s goal here seems to be to get more web developers involved. These people may be well suited to developing for WebOS, but would never go to the trouble of downloading a SDK. Ares endeavors to keep everything one might need in a single place.
There aren’t really any other surprises beyond that. The SDK still won’t allow a lot of complexity in apps. For the most part, you still won’t see software that is as advanced as what we see on Android and iPhone.
Apple's App Store sits about 1,000 applications lighter today, which represents about 1 percent of all apps. The reason? Apple discovered that a large iPhone developer was participating in a ratings scam, and so Apple removed the company's catalog of over 1,000 apps.
The company in question is Moliker Inc., who developed more than 1,000 titles, most of which were based on travel (such as Mobile Travel Guide). The company is accused of giving its own apps 5-star ratings to try to raise the average ratings and boost sales.
But the scam came crumbling down when one attentive user noticed a pattern in most of the reviews. Most of the apps had about 50 five-star rankings with poorly written reviews, which served as a tell-tale sign that the developer was probably using his allotment of 50 promocodes to create fake accounts and review his own apps. The user fired off an email to Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller, or promplty pulled all 1,011 apps from the App Store.
"Yes, this developer's apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either," Schiller said.
Intel has announced that they are moving ahead with reckless abandon to create an app store for netbooks. Their goal is to have the store preinstalled on all Atom based netbooks running both Windows and Mobiln. The apparent model for the store is suspiciously similar to that of the Apple App Store. Developers would get 70% of sales and the remaining 30% would go to Intel. Intel also plans to review apps in a manner similar to Apple, but hopefully Intel won’t be as fussy.
It’s an interesting idea, but few details are available. Intel simply claims the store will launch sometime in 2010. Developers can get the SDK now from the Intel site. Will anyone be able to create compelling enough paid apps to attract users? After all, most netbooks are Windows based and there are a plethora of applications that run just fine on them. Do you expect anything interesting to come of this, or is the idea of a closed netbook app store a non-starter?
At long last the augmented reality browser Layer has released version 3.0 complete with some spiffy new features. One big advance is support for 3D objects. These objects can be inserted into new 3.0 layers and appear in the Layar interface. One of the 3.0 layers used at show off the new feature is “Beatles Tour”. The layer contains 42 points of interest with various 3D models as a guided tour of the music group’s old haunts.
The folks at Layar are also encouraging artists to create art exclusively for the augmented reality app. Users could wander around their neighborhood looking at virtual artwork on a huge scale. If that sort of thing isn’t for you, have no fear. The new user login and cookie support makes it easier to customize layers. A user can keep information more relevant to them. For example, the “tweeps around” layer shows nearby tweets, but Layar 3.0 would allow you to filter out people you don’t follow and send out tweets from the layer itself . Layar 3.0 is currently available in the Android Market for Android 1.5 and 1.6 devices. Testing on Android 2.0 is nearly complete, so a version for the Droid should be along any time now. The iPhone version will be in the App Store as soon as Apple gets around to approving it.
It took quite a while for Microsoft to be fully convinced that its mobile OS is long due for an overhaul. Last month, although it did not quite deliver an overhaul, it took a small step toward bringing its mobile offering up to speed with the competition. It launched the Windows Marketplace for Mobile app store on October 6th, the very day it released Windows Mobile 6.5.
But the enhancement that should interest WinMo users the most is the ability to “browse and buy applications from the PC.” All applications bought from the Windows Marketplace for Mobile site will be delivered wirelessly to the user’s Windows phone. Microsoft will make the store accessible to Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 customers later this month.
It’s no secret that the approval process for iPhone apps is a little ridiculous at times. Apple is totally aware of that, though. So they’ve decided to make the whole process just a tiny bit more transparent. When app developers log into the Dev Center site, they will see a new area for status updates. Apps will be listed as “waiting for review”, “in review”, or “ready for sale”.
You don’t have to look far on the web to find a developer with a heartbreaking story of how they poured their savings into making an app, only to have it held in limbo for weeks or months. While the new policy doesn’t necessarily do anything about the actual delays, devs will at least know where in the process it’s held up.
For its part, Apple claims that 96% of iPhone apps are approved in less than two weeks. Now that we know that a lot of those apps are just repackaged eBooks, that figure seems less impressive. The closed nature of the App Store hasn’t hurt its growth so far. Should Apple even be worried about the process?
Apple has announced that its App Store now holds over 100,000 apps, highlighting the company's dominance over the also-rans. That includes Google's Android Market and its comparatively paltry 10,000 apps, although Android has had less time on the market.
"The App Store, now with over 100,000 applications available, is clearly a major differentiator for millions of iPhone and iPod touch customers around the world," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "The iPhone SDK created the first great platform for mobile applications and our customers are loving all of the amazing apps our developers are creating."
What makes the feat even more impressive is that Apple was able to accumulate all these apps in just 16 months. There's definitely something to be said for being the first major player.
Of course, quality is just as important as quantity, and here too Apple has been making strides to improve its App Store. Features like Genius recommendations, App Store Essentials, and sub-category listings are all efforts to give quality apps their due.