Apple's App Store officially passed the billion app download mark last week and I'd like to take a moment in my column to consider what a billion app downloads in just nine months means. Using my calculations (which hopefully don't explain why I failed Algebra II in high school), there was an average of 43 apps downloaded per second during that time. Sadly, an app that makes it look like you're drinking beer and a fart app are among the most downloaded paid apps ever. This means, in the time it took me to write this, iBeer and iFart Mobile probably sold enough copies to make most of the developer's whose apps I try to feature in this column weep tears of pure despair. Putting it simply, that's just not fair. Nor is it right. The problem is clear: app discovery sucks. Apple had its 2009 second quarter conference call last week as well. It was as boring as you would expect until someone asked the company's head honchos this question: "In view of the explosion in the number of applications for the iPhone and the iTouch, I was wondering what steps Apple is taking to ensure that the iPhone apps can be discovered. And are these any different from music discovery on the app store?" I couldn't have worded the question better myself. Apple's response: 'We're doing a number of things. We include easy to find top 50 and 100 apps both paid for and free. We've got them associated in various genres as well and we're expanding those." Great, Apple will begin to break down more than just games into sub-genres. That's a good start. Unfortunately, it isn't going to get the job done. Not by a long shot. The app store is completely different from the music and movie stores. Those only sell temporary entertainment. Four minutes of auditory enjoyment or two hours of viewing pleasure and you're done. The app store provides temporary entertainment too, and, unsurprisingly, those are the apps getting downloaded the most. However, a precious few apps have the ability to fundamentally change the way you live, spend your time or get things done. Not to be overdramatic, but the ingenuity of developers is incredible, the breadth of apps populating the app store is astonishing and there are few tools, if any, to help people find these hidden gems. App discovery needs drastic improvement. Maybe the answer is a genius recommendation system. Maybe it's a featured iPhone user's section that lets anybody see what an iPhone power user has installed on his or her phone. Maybe it's a premium store. Maybe the solution is an app itself. In the meantime, at the mark of a billion downloads, I raise a real beer to all you hidden gem developers who aren't getting the downloads they deserve and the desperate iPhone users who want cool and useful apps on their iPhone and don't know where to look. "Here's to the crazy ones."
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April 29, 2009
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