Last week Verizon held its Verizon Developer Community (VDC) Conference in Las Vegas, where the company unveiled an updated and newly branded Verizon Apps store, which replaces the VCast app store. The Verizon Apps store includes improved search capabilities through a partnership with Chomp. Verizon certifies the apps in the store and is reducing the time necessary to test and install new applications to within two weeks. The Verizon Apps store will be accessible on Droid smartphones, and users can purchase apps and pay for them through their Verizon phone bill. Verizon is also creating a new private application store for businesses, which will include applications built by enterprises and third parties to address the specific needs of line of business workers within the organization. These enterprise app stores will provide yet another distribution channel for developers.
It is important to recognize that mobile application developers have a lot of choices regarding which mobile storefronts they use to distribute their applications, including the Android Market, the Apple App Store, and app stores from many other telecom operators and mobile device manufacturers. To capture the mindshare of developers and facilitate the success of the store, it is important to:
1) Provide marketing opportunities for developers. Competitive application stores include hundreds of thousands of applications, making it difficult for developers to get visibility for their applications. Developers also want to ensure their applications are seen by the correct user segments. Offering segmented marketing programs to ensure relevant users have visibility into the appropriate applications is a way to address this issue.
For eBusiness leaders, software app stores represent a new and disruptive distribution channel for PC and Mac software.
Three weeks ago, Apple launched its App Store for Macs, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful app store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. With the new Mac app store, Apple is hoping to change the way Mac users discover, download and purchase software. At launch the store contained more than 1,000 apps, and Apple was keen to report an impressive 1 million downloads on the first day. For Mac users it’s a compelling story:
A convenient one-stop shop. Users can launch the app store right from the Mac dock, revealing a powerful set of discovery tools to browse and search the library of apps on offer. eCommerce best practices are employed throughout including search, faceted navigation, what’s hot, top sellers, favorites and customer reviews to create an intuitive discovery experience.
Frictionless purchase and install experience. Downloading and buying in the app store is a simple one-click process. By linking the checkout and payment process to users' iTunes accounts, Apple is able to streamline the buying process significantly versus a typical multipage checkout process common on software publishers' eCommerce sites. The apps in the Mac store have been packaged to comply with the Mac app install process, making the installation quick and seamless compared to the multistep install process common with most software.
Nokia just published its fourth-quarter and annual results for 2010. I am not going to focus on the overall announcements and what they mean for Nokia’s device business in particular, but Nokia’s update on the Ovi Store is quite interesting.
Here are some of the key takeaways from a data perspective:
4 million-plus daily downloads on the Ovi Store.This is an increase of 200% from the 2 million daily downloads statistic shared at Nokia World in mid-September. If momentum continued and we assumed an average of 5 million-plus daily downloads throughout 2011, this would represent close to 2 billion downloads for 2011 alone. That’s not bad considering that Apple just announced 10 billion cumulative downloads since the launch of the Apple App Store in July 2008.
Good performance in BRIC and emerging countries.Seven of the top 10 most active countries are in the BRIC region or are emerging countries. These include: China, where Nokia claims to be the No. 1 store with 65% share (based on independent research); India; Indonesia; Russia, which sees more than 1 million downloads per week; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, with 1.6 million downloads per week; and Vietnam. One should not forget that growth and volumes will increasingly come from these regions. As a result, developers may increasingly be open to Nokia’s pitch that it offers local reach and global scale. One of the main advantages of the Ovi Store is its ability to provide operator billing (currently available in 32 markets), which makes a lot of sense in unbanked or underbanked countries where credit card penetration is low. Interestingly, 27% of the current downloads come from low-end devices (e.g, Nokia’s S40 proprietary platform) — meaning that apps are not just for “smartphones.”
Apple reinvented the distribution of products and services on mobile phones, opening up direct-to-consumer opportunities for nontelecom companies. The numbers look impressive — more than 5 billion downloads and $1 billion paid to developers in the two years since the launch of the Apple App Store.
However, it also generated $429 million for Apple itself in two years. These revenues are not meaningful to Apple’s core revenues. Due to the limited number of paid apps and their significant concentration among games and navigation apps, it is likely that a significant number of independent developers have not recouped their investments via the current revenue-sharing model. The recent launch of iAd is a way for Apple to maintain the attractiveness of its platform, allowing third parties that provide free apps to develop sustainable business models.
But, despite all the hype around apps, only a minority of consumers download them monthly. A recent Forrester survey of more than 25,000 European adults shows that only 4% of all mobile users and 15% of smartphone users report downloading apps at least once per month. However, the fact that 21% of all European mobile users consider apps to be an important feature when choosing a new mobile handset highlights the large gap between today’s limited usage of apps and consumer awareness and interest.
The application store market is still nascent, but it is evolving quickly. However, in the longer run, few players will be able to address the key factors that will make them a success:
At the beginning of this year, we stated that application stores would continue to flourish, but none would replicate Apple's success in 2010. So far, it has been quite easy not to be proven wrong on this one. Android Market and, to a lesser extent, RIM's BlackBerry App World are growing fast in the US, while Nokia's OVI is performing quite well in some regions. Windows Marketplace is likely to benefit from end-of-year Windows 7 sales, while Samsung Apps are not yet really marketed, not to mention LG's efforts. The Wholesale Applications Community (the operators' alliance) has not yet launched. Global operators have yet to significantly launch their own multiplatform stores. Both approaches (the vertically integrated from handset manufacturers/OS players and the horizontal layer added by operators) are likely to continue to expand this year, making it even more complex for brands and companies launching their own applications. Many of them are starting to realize that there is a world outside of Apple's iPhone and that their app will be lost in a back catalog of more than 200,000 apps if they don't market it. They are starting to wonder how to break the Apple App Store ranking algorithm, how much to invest in the life cycle of their application, and which stores they should target to distribute their products and services. I see a couple of key issues that need to be tackled to seriously address this market opportunity: