100,000 crappy apps — or a few good ones?

apps.jpg At least in part to counteract some of the Droid excitement of this week, Apple made a point of publicizing that its iPhone app store passed the 100,000 app mark. Might this be the least interesting news in the history of technology? It could be.

How many apps do you use on your desktop? How many Web apps do you regularly use in your browser? How many Web sites do you visit on a regular basis?

In any of these areas, would your life be vastly improved if instead of the handful of useful things you use every day, you suddenly stopped to consider 100,000 additional options?

When early versions of Windows, or the Macintosh for that matter, took off, was it the volume of apps that made them successful? Or Killer Apps like word processing (I remember going to Kinko’s to use their font- and design-friendly Macs to do resumes — yes, I’m that old) and Lotus 1-2-3, etc.?

This isn’t a question of the long tail. I get that the Web has allowed niche interests to flourish. I belong to a few obsessive niche audiences (blogs and message boards) myself.

But is that really the case with mobile apps? No. A good portion of those 100,000 iPhone apps are simply crap. Or jokes. Or pale Web site imitations.

Need proof? I invite you to visit the app screens of my daughter’s iPod Touch, which include probably 50 or 60 of the most useless app I’ve ever seen — but which somehow amuse her and her friends. Amusing 11-year-olds is great (huge businesses have been built on just that), and of course the thing plays music and videos too.

Want more statistical proof? According to research firm AppsFire, when you reach the 1000th most popular iPhone app, just 1.76% of users have installed it. By the 2000th app, the installs barely register a blip

Does that mean there aren’t jewels among those 100,000 iPhone apps? Of course not. There are obvious winners.

But guess what? The Android app store has 12,000 apps in it today. Do you think it’s more important that the best, most interesting apps — say the top 500 — find their way onto both platforms or that the iPhone reaches 200,000 apps before Android reaches 20,000?

Android certainly looks to have enough momentum that the battle over the best apps versus the iPhone will almost certainly be a push.

The more interesting question: Can a third platform emerge?

The Palm Pre, as slick as it sounds, isn’t likely to reach that same parity.

More interestingly, what about the Blackberry and Windows Mobile? Each do something — or really, the same thing: Exchange access — extremely well.

Will they be app platforms, too? Or will the app game be a two-contender battle between the iPhone and Android?

I vote for the latter. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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