Thanks to the upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays, we're on a slightly accelerated schedule with the latest WIP App Store Report, a monthly report based on our App Store Catalog, the most comprehensive collection of information on mobile app stores available -- so think of this as an early present!
The number of stores in the catalog grew by only one during the month, edging up to 110 now. But it's the growth during the year that we want to focus on. As you can see from the chart above, one year ago, the WIP App Store Catalog featured just 32 stores; since then, it has more than tripled, giving developers an unprecedented array of distribution outlets. The overall growth has been driven in absolute numbers by independent app stores -- a reflection of the fact that today’s smartphones allow for open distibution channels, and that anybody with a decent level of technical skill could conceivably start their own app store. But it’s worth highlighting the growth in a few other areas.
The number of app stores run by platform or device makers doubled over the year, from 11 to 24, with much of the growth coming from makers of Android devices launching their own offerings to run alongside the Android Market. Meanwhile, the number of operator-run stores more than tripled as companies around the world jumped on the bandwagon, they too installing their own stores alongside platform and device makers’ offerings.
This highlights what will be a key trend in the app store space for 2011: a high level of jockeying for position between competing providers as they seek to differentiate themselves from each other, and capture users’ attention, downloads and ultimately, spending. Competition will grow intense as companies seek to use financial incentives to draw in developer and users, and whatever leverage they can from their position in the value chain.
While the flow of new app store entrants will continue, 2011 could see a significant shakeout as weaker third-party stores fall by the wayside, and even some bigger names lose out to the changing market (see Symbian Horizon for an example). While certain features like rev share and user billing should move toward parity, other unsolved problems like discoverability leave huge scope for competition and opportunity for innovation.
For more thoughts about what 2011 will bring for mobile developers and the mobile industry as a whole, be sure to check out the WIP team’s predictions for the year all through next week here on the WIP blog.