If research firm IDC is correct, 2010 will be the year apps not only continue to take off, but absolutely explode. IDC is predicting that Apple's App Store will be offering at least 300,000 iPhone apps by the end of 2010, which if true will be three times the 100,000 apps Apple said it had in November 2009.
As Apple's App Store grows, however, and rival vendors with a stake in the smartphone market get their own app strategies in order, is app quantity really such a good thing?
From the perspectives of freedom and choice, certainly: Apple's App Store has been a runaway hit, opened up a whole new marketplace for mobile devices and is keeping some of the best developers in the business -- and some of the worst -- gainfully employed.
The app explosion may also represent a golden opportunity for Google and Android, however, as well as other app development platforms that are eyeballing Apple's App Store success with more than a hint of jealousy. According to IDC, not only will Apple's apps for iPhone and iPod Touch triple, but Android apps could surge "by a factor of five or more."
That's great news for Google, which with Android currently sports the hottest mobile OS of the fall, and one Google CEO Eric Schmidt is probably right in predicting will "explode" next year. Android phones are arriving faster than users can adopt them, with the most popular, such as Motorola's Droid, doing what many previous smartphone launches failed to do this year: steal spotlight from Apple and iPhone.
Part of maintaining Droid's momentum -- and Android's momentum, really -- will depend on how fast and effectively Google gets the Android Market up to snuff. Many of the 12,000-or-so existing apps available through the Android Market don't work with multiple versions of Android, for example, which can't be too attractive to developers.
But if Google can successfully paint Apple's App Store as "big, but unorganized" -- those whispers that the App Store is getting out of control aren't exactly going away -- and then deliver on a consistently great app experience through Android Market, it'll be an app contender in 2010. Already, many developers that have found success on the Apple platform -- including GPS navigation system maker Navigon -- have said they'll make the leap to Android, too, if they haven't done so already.
IDC's research report suggested that not only will many of the apps come from familiar places -- consumer brands, in particular, looking for a mobile platform presence -- but that the smartphone market itself is growing 2.5 times as fast as the PC market.