Apple's 'Zombie Apps' Cloud App Store's Birthday

Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013 | 7:13 AM ET
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New research suggest that two-thirds of Apple's applications are "zombies" - receiving little or no downloads – an unwelcome present for the revolutionary Apple App Store which has just turned five.

Apple calls it the "world's largest app marketplace" offering over 900,000 apps for iPad, iPod and iPhone including games, tools and social media platforms. But new research by Adeven shows that 579,001 apps in a watched database of 888,856 are "zombies".

"What makes it a zombie is that it's not found on the top lists that Apple publishes every day," Adeven said in a press release. Forty thousand lists are published by the tech firm across the globe in which the firm promotes up to 300 apps on each list. Adeven collates the data from these lists.

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The 579,001 apps not listed are therefore "invisible", according to Paul Muller, Adeven's chief technical officer who told CNBC that these applications are "lingering around the shallows" of the App Store receiving between 1 and 100 downloads a day.

It's not going to be very motivational for a developer", he said. "The game has been changed significantly...the gold rush of the old days are over."

Muller claimed that a "zombie" app, even if it was downloaded 100 times a day, couldn't make enough money for the developers to make it worthwhile.

"The game has been professionalized" he said, adding that it is now essential for app developers to employ marketing techniques to guarantee that products are placed on top-lists. Adeven claims that 73 percent of app developers can now be classed as "zombies" through not receiving the ideal exposure.

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The App Store has reached over 50 billion downloads since its inception on July 9, 2008, according to Apple, and announced in May that customers are downloading more than 800 apps per second at a rate of over two billion apps per month.

"The App Store completely transformed how people use their mobile devices and created a thriving app ecosystem that has paid out over nine billion dollars to developers," Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services said in May's press release.

Apple's CEO Tim Cook has previously claimed that 93 percent of all the apps on the App Store register downloads each month. Adeven says it is not disputing that fact.

Apple to Slash iPhone Production?
Shares of Apple are under pressure after Brian Blair, Wedge Partners analyst, said he was cutting his iPhone production forecast for the second half of the year by 20 percent.

"We are not calling them app carcasses, just app zombies", Muller told CNBC.

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The realization that many apps remain unloved may shock some, but Benedict Evans of consultancy firm Enders Analysis told CNBC that the figures are hardly surprising.

"Saying 'we made an app and no-one downloaded it' is like saying 'we made a website and no-one visited', or 'I wrote a book and no-one bought it'. It doesn't tell you much about the success of the platform, " he said.

"Clearly there's a long tail - some apps do very well and others never go anywhere - or were never intended to have a large audience. That's capitalism."

By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81.

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  • Matt Hunter is the senior technology editor at CNBC.com.

  • Cadie Thompson is a tech reporter for the Enterprise Team for CNBC.com.

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.

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  • Lipton is CNBC's technology correspondent, working from CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau.

  • Mark is CNBC's Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bureau Chief covering technology and digital media.