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The rise and fall of mobile apps: a Roman Android empire?

by Kristen Nicole

Mobile apps are creating smartphone loyalty, determining which OS and device a consumer may buy. At least that’s what a recent Gartner report will have you believe. The sales report ranks Android, Symbian, iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Phone sales in the first quarter of 2011, noting the impact of mobile apps on the market share of new sales. It seems the mobile device market is only gaining in strength, Google (GOOG) taking 36 percent market share, leading with 36.3 million unites sold. Symbian comes in second, with 27.4 percent market share at 27.6 million units, leaving Apple (AAPL) at 16.8 percent market share with 16.9 in sales. RIM’s (RIMM) BlackBerry comes in fourth, with 13 million and a 12.9 percent take of the market.

"Every time a user downloads a native app to their smartphone or puts their data into a platform's cloud service, they are committing to a particular ecosystem and reducing the chances of switching to a new platform,” notes principle research analyst Roberta Cozza. “This is a clear advantage for the current stronger ecosystem owners Apple and Google. As well as putting their devices in the context of a broader ecosystem, manufacturers must start to see their smartphones as part of a computing continuum."

The fat of Android’s ecosystem

Apps have certainly created an expansive ecosystem for mobile industry, but just like the mighty dinosaur, this era may one day become extinct. The death of mobile apps has been predicted by MIT writer Christopher Mims, pegging web apps as the future. It’s their potential ubiquity across platforms that extends access to web users, instead of drawing lines in the sand around mobile browsing versus the web you access on a PC laptop. Mims calls for a browser-based utopia where offline access and standards like HTML5 harmonize our disparate web experiences, but notes that offline access is far from perfect. Things still boil down to business, where Google’s marketplace has lower operating costs than Apple’s, with a broadening reach.

Google intends to leverage this marketplace the best it can, coming out with a guide for developers hoping to make a business of Android’s platform. The Guide to the App Galaxy is full of tips and best practices from fellow developers, navigating you through the promotional and analytics steps of generating revenue in the world of mobile apps. There also seems to be plenty of seller’s rhetoric in the guide, with featured success stories from Rovio and The Weather Channel.