The iPhone may soon be getting stiffer competition from upcoming products like the Motorola Droid, but one area where Apple's commanding lead seems untouchable is its mobile app store. Apple today announced in a press release that developers have now created over 100,000 applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Phill Schiller stated in the press release:
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. 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.
A major reason why Apple lost the old Mac/PC war in the 80's and 90's was because of software. Developers were churning out popular programs for the Windows platform while the Mac platform was often a second priority, if at all. You can bet that Steve Jobs and co. will not be making the same mistake twice, and as Schiller notes above, mobile app stores will be the key differentiating factor amongst smartphones in the foreseeable future.
When the iPhone first launched in 2007, it was miles ahead of the competition. It introduced a full-featured web browser and showcased an incredible touchscreen interface, among other things. But since then, competitors have followed Apple's lead, and though the iPhone is still the top smartphone out on the market today, the competition is getting tighter. The Palm Pre has been a decent addition to the smartphone milieu, and with the upcoming Motorola Droid generating all kinds of good press, the gap in quality between the iPhone and other smartphones will inevitably shrink as the focus will turn from hardware to software - and that's exactly where Apple simply can't be beat.
With over 100,000 apps, the iTunes app store completely dwarfs every other mobile app store, and with the iPhone platform encompassing the popular iPod Touch as well, Apple is attracting developers as it simultaneously continues to grow its installed base of iPhone OS users. That's a double whammy, and the way the landscape looks now, RIM, Microsoft, Palm, and Verizon will have a tough, if not impossible, time creating a dent in Apple's app store armor.
If the success of the iPod taught us anything, it's that people prefer easy to use software over products with impressive spec sheets. The iPod in its heyday wasn't the most feature-rich MP3 player on the market, and competing products often had more memory and features (i.e FM Radio), and often at cheaper prices. But what good is a spec sheet if the ordinary consumer can't intuitively figure out how to put them to good use? The iPod became an iconic phenomenon because of its software, because it was easy to use, and because it integrated seamlessly with iTunes.
In a similar vein, iPhone competitors like to show off sexy new spec sheets, and never miss an opportunity to point out that the iPhone lacks a pull out keyboard and a removable battery, but in the end, it's all irrelevant because most consumers don't care about that kind of stuff. What they do care about is a phone that's easy to use and can run cool applications, and when you look at it that way, the iPhone's reign is still in its infancy. Now that's a scary thought.