More than 25 billion apps have been downloaded from Apple’s App Store, the company has announced, in a milestone that highlights the shift to a new model for computing, digital content, software and the web.
Apple kick-started the revolution just four years ago when it made available a toolkit for third-party developers to build apps for its iPhone on March 6 2008.
The kit was downloaded more than 100,000 times in the first four days and there were 800 apps available when the App Store opened its online doors in July that year. Today, there are more than 550,000 apps created by 248,000 developers for the 315 million iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices sold.
Apple’s concept has been imitated by rivals including Google, Microsoft, Research In Motion, Nokia, HP and Samsung Electronics and analysts say it has changed the face of computing.
“The 25 billion milestone is a symbol for the explosive growth of the app economy,“ says Al Hilwa, applications development software analyst at the IDC research firm.
“Apps bring a simplicity of interaction that eluded previous generations. Enterprise applications will eventually follow consumer ones, marking an industry transition to this style of software.”
Apps — short for applications — are a short form and simpler version of the software applications that have been traditionally sold as boxed products in retail stores for PCs. They are also easier to use because they are accessible on mobile devices through the medium of touch screens.
Apps have also disrupted the traditional software pricing model — many are free or cost about the equivalent of $1 — and span a wider range of business categories.
With an emphasis on consumption and entertainment rather than traditional productivity software, their popularity has forced industries such as video games, media and education publishing to come up with new business models for charging for their content.
Apps have also become a victim of their own success. There are so many that developers struggle to make consumers aware of their products and users can find scores of downloaded apps hard to locate on their crowded screens.
Apple says it has paid more than $4 billion to developers to date after taking its 30 percent cut on sales in the App Store.
The app economy is credited with creating 466,000 jobs in the U.S. alone over the past four years, according to a Technet study released in February, with demand for app workers growing 45 percent in 2011. Apple put out its own figures on Friday claiming 210,000 U.S. jobs had been created within its app economy.
The company will seek to maintain its dominance of this new era with the launch of a third version of the iPad expected on Wednesday. Apps are also infiltrating personal computers, with 100 million downloads on the Mac App Store last year and Microsoft introducing apps in 2012 as part of its Windows 8 operating system.