Smartphone and tablet users will download 44 billion apps by 2016, according to new estimates, as the market for task-based, mobile computing shows no sign of slowing down.
Demand for apps will continue to increase from the about 15 million three years ago, according to ABI Research’s five-year forecast. If the New York-based research firm is right, the coming years will see people move increasingly away from traditional PC computing toward app-centric mobile devices.
Of the dominant app markets, Apple reports 10 billion downloads to date at its App Store, while Google’s Android Market customers have garnered less than half that number so far.
Other online stores like Nokia’s Ovi, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry App World, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone Marketplace lag behind in in the number of apps they offer, only a few thousand compared to Apple and Google’s nearly 700,000 apps combined.
While it’s likely Apple will remain king of app downloads for a while, it faces competition from a fast-growing Android market, where the software’s open platform offers incentives for developers.
The Cupertino, Calif-based company exercises strict oversight and control of its apps, so Google may catch up fast, especially as Android users grow in numbers in the smartphone market.
And these two giants will also need to keep an eye on smaller competitors like Amazon, which is launching an Android app store of its own.
The online retailer has begun to compete with Google’s market by offering discounts to lure consumers to its polished, if still sparse, app store. And RIM’s app downloads reached one billion in 2010, with more on the way if its Playbook tablet and new Bold handset take off.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone app store may present a challenge as well, given that the software company is set to install its OS on all future Nokia phones. This pairing could create a wider market for Microsoft apps, since Nokia’s handsets still prevail in the international market, despite losing out in the U.S. to smartphone makers like Apple.
But whichever app store takes the lead in the long run, it is doubtful that consumers will get tired of downloading apps like Facebook and “Angry Birds” anytime soon.