By ZETTLER CLAY, Capital News Service/Maryland Newsline
COLLEGE PARK (Feb. 26, 2010) - Mobile app downloads and sales are booming, as more and more people shift from using their computers to using their phones to access the Internet, read books and play games.
Gartner Research of Stamford, Conn., recently announced a prediction that 4.5 billion mobile applications will be downloaded globally this year. That's up from 2.5 billion in 2009—an 80 percent increase.
Growth is expected to come from all age groups, particularly the younger demographic, said Gartner Research Vice President William Clark. That's not surprising: 80 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are wireless Internet users, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Games remain the No. 1 downloaded application to mobile devices, but social networking, news and mobile shopping apps are gaining traction. By 2013, mobile phones are expected to overtake personal computers as the most common Web access device worldwide, Clark said.
Clark predicts there will be 1.78 billion personal computer units and more than 1.8 billion mobile phone units in 2013.
Daniel Odio, co-founder and chief operating officer of the technology consulting firm PointAbout, based in Washington, D.C., said apps are going to be used in "more and more creative ways."
"As more businesses get in, apps will be used to do things like check blood pressure, help auto salesmen improve customer experience, help police determine what areas feature a lot speeding. And so on," he said.
Assistant Professor Ron Yaros, who teaches an Information 3.0 class at the University of Maryland, College Park said there are no limits as to what kind of applications could flood the market.
"In an environment where anybody, anywhere can post their need for an app, there is no ceiling," he said.
Even the youngest users are joining the mobile apps trend. There has been a remarkable surge among 8- to 14-year-olds for iPod Touch downloads, said Peter Farago, vice president of Flurry, an analytic firm for mobile applications. On Christmas Day, there was a 1,000 percent increase in iPod Touch downloads from the average of previous Fridays in December, he said.
"This is like the Happy Meal model for McDonald's," Farago said. "As children become older, they are transitioned because they already have iTunes accounts and would have downloaded or purchased a lot of apps or songs. This makes them quite familiar with downloading applications."
ITunes started the ball rolling in 2001 by allowing ease of access and payment for music downloads to mobile devices. By establishing a central location for specialized consumer demands, Apple opened up a market that many underestimated at first, Odio said.
Other companies, including Appmakr, began taking advantage of the burgeoning mobile apps market. Appmakr started off as a project for the technology firm PointAbout, but spun off into its own company this January. Odio said Appmakr has built more than 3,000 apps for the iTunes store.
The company also designed the first-ever White House app, which brings key features of WhiteHouse.gov to mobile platforms. The free app allows users to view White House video, photos, blog posts and other news events.
The company has also designed apps for news clients, such as The Washington Post and Politico. The apps allow consumers to easily access and navigate the news sites.
"We are one of the first, if not the first, to launch this self-service on how to build apps," Odio said.
But others are moving into the apps market.
Last Monday, Wholesale Applications Community announced it formed a coalition of businesses to team up to create an apps store to challenge Apple's dominance.
AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are a part of the coalition of 24 companies that are poised to open up the market for mobile apps.
"This is just the first inning of things to come," Odio said. "Actually, I think we're still in pre-game."