The Palm Pre, the world's first webOS device, went on sale in the United States on June 6. With it Palm launched a corresponding mobile software channel, the Pre App Catalog, which already boasts a number of great applications. Earlier this week, Medialets, a mobile advertising and analytics firm, released App Catalog metrics that suggest Palm's new app store hit the 1M downloads mark on June 24, just 18 days after its launch. Palm Pre App Catalog Total App Downloads Since Launch, via Medialets
That's impressive when you consider the fact that those millions application downloads can be attributed to just 150,000 Pres sold. That's an average of more than six app-downloads per device and 33,333 thousand total downloads per application, according to Medialets, with a download-low of 2,400 and a high of 114,000.
It's even more notable with some additional context. For example, the Palm Pre/webOS software developer's kit (SDK), dubbed Mojo, which provides developers with the tools necessary to create webOS apps, isn't even publically available yet. Developers using the Mojo SDK are participants in Palm's "early access program," and have likely signed away all sorts of freedoms in exchange for access to the tools. In other words, developers using the Mojo SDK for Pre are currently doing so according to a set of (strict) Palm rules.
Palm plans to release the SDK by the end of summer, but until then, it's up to the company who can and who cannot build Pre apps for distribution via App Catalog. Also developers who sign Palm's Mojo SDK non-disclosure agreement (NDS) can't talk about the SDK to anyone. They can't share feedback or best practices.
Furthermore, the App Catalog itself is still in "beta" testing stages, and as such, developers aren't yet allowed to charge for applications, according to Ed Finkler, creator of the popular Spaz Twitter application, which is available in Palm's App Catalog.
Finkler's currently offering Spaz for free via App Catalog, but he plans to eventually charge a small fee--from $1 to $3--to compensate folks who have contributed to Spaz, which is an open-source project. (Finkler will also make all pertinent Spaz for Pre source code available online, so it'll be free to those crafty enough to circumvent App Catalog.)
Such SDK and pricing restraints make it difficult, if not impossible, for independent developers like Finkler--who isn't funded by some large corporate entity--to sink time and resources into a Pre app because he and his fellow Spaz contributors aren't monetarily compensated in any way...yet.
As such, it doesn't currently make sense to compare App Catalog progress with the success of other major mobile software stores like the iTunes App Store or BlackBerry App World. But that didn't stop Medialets from doing so. From the company:
"[C]omparing at the 1 million mark, the average Palm Pre user had downloaded 26x the number of apps that iPhone users had, and the average app in the App Catalog experienced 16x the number of downloads that apps in the App Store had experienced."
Again, this is a bit like comparing Apple to oranges. But the Palm Pre App Catalog is off to an impressive start any way you look at it. And this is just the beginning. Wait until the Mojo SDK is available to anyone who wants it. Developers will then (hopefully) starting sharing best practices and lessons learned. They'll be able to price apps in any way they please.
And new webOS devices, which will also presumably run App Catalog software, are on the near horizon.
All of these factors and more will surely draw more developers to the platform. The quality of applications will increase as more and more competing offerings make their ways into App Catalog. And Pre users will have access to a more robust ecosystem and webOS experience, which will in turn draw new users.
To sum that all up: The future's so bright for Palm's App Catalog, I'm putting on my Ray-Bans right now.
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