Happy New Year! As I enter my 9th year of blogging, I will open the year with more predictions. I started off last week with predictions in the Microsoft space. This week I will look at general industry trends. Today I start with the AppStore.
Apple has one, Android has one, Windows Phone 7 has one, and even BlackBerry has an AppStore. Apple has the most popular platform to date; Citibank predicts that Apple will sell $2billion in 2011 in their AppStore. Gartner predicts the AppStore market will be $4billion in 2010.
AppStores are everywhere. My colleague Joel Semeniuk and many others argue that we will see a proliferation of AppStores for the many different platforms. I disagree.
Fred Wilson argues that mobile economics will start to look like web economics, meaning that as the mobile platforms mature and become mainstream, the behaviors and business models of mobile will mimic those of the web. We don’t rely on an AppStore to market Web applications and contain comments/ratings, we rely on social media for that. On the web today if we want an application, we don’t go to an AppStore, we go to a web site and download it. On that website there is always a “choose your platform” options, as shown on Skype’s home page below.
As behaviors on the mobile internet merge with the behaviors on the “regular” web, we’ll see more vendors offering their products this way. (Google Voice avoided the Apple AppStore this way at one point when Apple was blocking it.) I can already bypass the Android marketplace and download many apps directly. The most popular iPhone game, AngryBirds, is also available on the Android, but they bypassed the Android MarketPlace and went with Getjar downloads. (What is also interesting is that AngryBirds on Android is free but that is a different conversation about paid v ad supported content.)
It is not just about avoiding the commission you have to pay the AppStores, it is about controlling your brand and extending your brand across platforms. Skype, AngryBirds, and others want to control their interaction with their users and customers, not have Apple or Google control it. The content developers know you may have a PC at work, a Mac at home, and an Android in your pocket, so they want to interact with you directly, not through an intermediary.
I can’t see content developers giving up control. The reason why the AppStore succeeded at first was that the mobile platform was new and there was only one important player (Apple) who only allowed you on their platform via the AppStore. Now mobile is everywhere and Apple is no longer the sole dominate player (Android has more market share actually). Of course Apple has tight control over the iPhone and it is not going to change anytime soon, however, as the other platforms emerge and gain market share, the web model will prevail, making the Apple AppStore look like Lycos and Excite in 1999.
Lastly, there is a technical pressure against AppStores as well. HTML5 is being positioned as a way to avoid having to write your app at least 3 times (iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7). While I don’t believe all of the hype behind HTML5, undoubtedly some companies will choose HTML5 over native apps. Those companies will easily avoid the AppStores, even the iPhone one.
2011 will see the beginning of this trend.