Mobile Apps Set for Explosive Growth: IDC

Mobile application downloads will soar by more than seven-fold in the next five years, totaling more than $35 billion in sales worldwide, according to a new report from IT research firm International Data Corp.

This staggering growth is expected to come not only from downloads to smartphones but also to tablet PCs like Apple's iPad and Research In Motion's much-anticipated PlayBook mobile device. Eventually, the IDC report concludes, mobile apps will be used by virtually every device and appliance in users' homes, creating unlimited opportunities for mobile application developers, device makers and mobile security providers.

"Mobile app developers will 'appify' just about every interaction you can think of in your physical and digital worlds," IDC analyst Scott Ellison wrote in the report. "The extension of mobile apps to every aspect of our personal and business lives will be one of the hallmarks of the new decade with enormous opportunities for virtually every business sector."

This year, IDC projects more than 10.9 billion mobile applications will be downloaded around the world. That figure is expected to rocket up to almost 77 billion apps by the end of 2014.

"The most obvious beneficiaries of mobile apps are mobile users who utilize mobile apps of almost every conceivable type," the report said. "Whether used to kill a few minutes while waiting in line or to download updated product specs in front of a customer, mobile applications have the power to change the way we live."

Recognizing the importance of new mobile app development and collaboration, Apple in September relaxed its restrictions on developers writing new apps for its iOS mobile operating system and vowed to improve the transparency of the approval process it uses to determine which apps are added to its App Store.

Faced with increasing pressure from Android-based devices and apps -- particularly support for Adobe Flash 10.1 -- Apple had little choice but to open up its developer community to third-party apps, including Flash, to maintain atop the smartphone food chain.

In September, IDC and application developer tools and services provider Appcelerator commissioned a survey of more than 2,300 mobile app developers to determine which platforms they were writing for and which devices they felt had the best chance of attracting new users.

The survey found that 58.6 percent of developers favored Android's long-term outlook compared to just 34.9 percent for Apple's iOS platform.

Seventy-two percent of developers surveyed said they believe Android is "best positioned to power a large number and variety of connected devices in the future," compared to just 35 percent of developers who think Apple iOS is better positioned in the fast-growing mobile device and application market.

IDC's latest data would seem to support the findings of a recent Pew Research Center study that only 24 percent of smartphone users actually download and use mobile applications from their devices, making it clear there's plenty of room for growth in both the device and mobile application segments.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Android, iPad, smartphones, mobile applications, IOS