Home > Editorials > First Six Months of Palm’s App Catalog… How’s Palm Doing?

First Six Months of Palm’s App Catalog… How’s Palm Doing?

The first 1000 webOS apps
It’s been six months since the birth of Palm’s resurgence, and here at Totally Palmed, the numbers are in.  We all know how important apps are in the smartphone race.  Despite being only six months old, Palm’s BETA App Catalog provided us with some very decent apps, top-notch Twitter clients,and fun games. Thanks to continued tabulations of Palm’s App Catalog counts by Palm Real Reviewer Craig Froehle (@CRA1G on Twitter) and yours truly, we have some real interesting data to show you. (After you’re done with our blast to the past, check out Mr. Froehle’s article from GearBits.com for a look at the future!) … Here’s the basic breakdown:

– After exactly six months (1/6/10), the U.S. app catalog reached 1023 apps
– About 2/3 of those are paid, and the other 1/3 are free
– After six months of being in public beta with only select webOS developers, Palm officially launched the App Catalog and formally opened it to all app developers.

So, the question begs… how are they doing?  We’ve got all of that, including a really interesting comparison to the Android Market’s numbers, after the break.

Let’s have a look at a slightly more detailed timeline of Palm’s App Catalog, shall we?

The first 1000 webOS apps (detailed)(click to zoom in)

If you saw my list of standout webOS apps from this period, you’d see why, despite the fact that these are high quality apps, some users have bemoaned the absence of some of the “razzle dazzle” seen on other platforms, like augmented reality apps and 3D gaming. The main reason for this was the limited API’s (Advanced Program Interface) that Palm had included in their SDK (Software Development Kit) for developers.  This is why we don’t have Shazam for webOS, yet: no access to the mic in the SDK!
Now… FORTUNATELY, this is all changing.  During Palm’s keynote presentation at CES last week, some very cool stuff was demonstrated to us, like 3D gaming, video recording, Flash 10.1, and more. So don’t do any face-palms, because some very exciting things lay ahead. (If you wanna see 3D gaming in action, go to webOSroundup’s review of Asphalt 5 for webOS… cool stuff!)

How does this stack up? Comparison, please!

Versus iPhone’s App Store?

Those of you expecting a comparison to the iPhone App Store, puh-leez. Forget it.  With a non-existent consumer app market for mobile phones, Apple was in a class of its own.  The App Store launched with 500 apps a year after the iPhone was released. It is also worth noting that the lion’s share of these applications were more web-based and not so much on-device apps. So, just like comparing the Palm Pre’s launch vs iPhone’s launch, we’re talking apples and oranges.  So sorry… na-ga-da! (Any Dana Carvey fans out there?)

Well okay, what about Android?
Now there’s a much better comparo, in my opinion. Like Palm’s webOS, Android is Linux-based, and comes from rather humble beginnings, having launched on a single device (the G1) on a single carrier (T-Mobile). By the time Android made its debut, just about everyone and their mother knew what the iPhone was, and the importance of mobile software.  Android has come a long way since then, and as recently as last month, Google announced that Android Market had reached 16,000 apps.  Impressive, to be sure, but what about the first few months?  How do they compare to Palm’s?  Below is a chart that I was able to compile based on the limited data I found. (My data is from Wikipedia , Android Central, AndroLib, and AndroidFeeder. Got a problem with my numbers? Blame them! Heh heh.)

Android Market the First Six Months(click to zoom in)

After six months, Android Market totaled 1,438 apps.  From the start, Google had baked in a pretty robust set of API’s in their SDK, allowing for cool apps such as Shazam and Shop Savvy right out of the gate. And now, time for the “money shot…” the number of webOS apps superimposed on the number of Android apps, over equivalent timeframes:

webos vs android 1st six months (click to zoom in)

Summarized? By this point, Android had 415 more apps than webOS after six months.  Android Market launched with more apps and a more robust SDK. It took Android two fewer months to exit their beta stage, though it took Palm two months less to introduce paid apps. There were also arguably more bumps along the way for Android (including some malware), but that’s a discussion too lengthy to address here.

So… how do we interpret all of this?

I’ll leave you to your own conclusions… feel free to leave a comment below.  For those interested in my opinion (haha), here’s my take: Do I think Palm should have done anything differently? Yes. They should have been quicker about providing API’s to developers, and the app limit problem was an embarrassment… possibly even a delay on app releases from October to December.  I also wish the App Catalog’s proportion of free apps (33%) would mirror Apple’s less (30% free) and Google’s  more (60% free). Finally, as Precentral.net rightfully pointed out, Palm needs to provide access to developer phones for select developers.

But ultimately? I think Palm is on the right track. By the time Android reached six months of age, its OS was (and in my opinion still is to some degree), quite clunky.  If you ask me at this point whether I’d take an advantage of 415 apps or webOS? I’d take webOS every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  In the grand scheme of things, these numbers won’t matter:  Android’s apps number 16,000.  By this point next year, I expect webOS apps to reach a similar (some would argue higher) number… so it’s all academic.  In terms of quality of applications, there are those like Precentral.net’s Dieter Bohn who feel that the caliber of webOS apps has already surpassed that of Android.  I’m not sure webOS is there quite yet, but it’s darn close… much closer than one would think for an OS in its infancy.

Let’s not forget: webOS, being based on CSS, HTML, and Javascript, does not require developers to learn any new programming languages. Palm has only now opened the floodgates for all developers, and with the help of a million dollar cash incentive, new developer interest has been high of late.  In addition, Palm has made some big changes in the way apps can be developed by launching Project Ares, a browser-based tool for developing webOS apps. Finally, Palm has enhanced the way webOS apps are distributed: rather than having just one hub for browsing, purchasing, and downloading apps, Palm has allowed opened webOS apps for open web distribution. How much this changes the landscape remains to be seen.

One thing’s for sure:  this fun little exercise of looking back into the past for webOS has made looking forward to the future that much more exciting. For a look at what this future might look like, check out Craig Froehle’s awesome forecastI can’t wait to see what happens next!

Categories: Editorials
  1. Qasim
    January 14, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Hey Daniel,Totally agree with you, Palm is on the right track. They do need the addition of more sophisticated apps in their catalog, especially for those of us in the medical communlity, but that should be on the horizon. I am sure that by the end of 2010 there will be thousands of apps available for Web OS. The main problem Palm and Web OS have are marketing and name recognition, which in the world of Apple and Google, will be its biggest problem.

  2. Bradford
    January 14, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Another great blog post by Dan the man! thanks!

  3. Nathan Beach
    January 14, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Very nice work Dr. Dan, I believe that Palm is very much on the right track, they totally just majorly stepped up an already solid game at CES…I think we have great stuff coming!

  4. Palmdoc
    January 14, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Well Palm has forgotten it's loyal International supporters. The App Catalog is currently a big zero, even for free apps as far as "unofficial" purchasers of the unlocked GSM phone. If you are not from an "official" launch country then you are out of luck. Palm doesn't want to know you.

  5. David Smith
    January 14, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Palmphone.com – A source for quality Palm Software Programming with feature rich Palm Pre Apps taking along the advantage of Palm Pre Appstore including Custom, Social, GPS Palm Apps Development, Palm Themes Icons Design, Palm Games Development and much more to cater the up surging demands of Palmphone Development

  6. info
    January 14, 2010 at 7:51 am

    You completely missed why Apple's App Store grew meteorically. They released a Developers Kit months BEFORE (Feb 2008) the store opened in July 2008 . The store opened with 500 apps and had 1,000 in 2 weeks. When did Palm launch their Developer's Kit?

  7. Dan Ramirez
    January 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    @Info Thanks for the correction on number of launch apps. It has been fixed. My point was that because of the iPhone's "meteoric" launch (nice word… I'll steal it!) and lack of competing mobile app market, it wouldn't make sense to compare its App Store to Palm's App Catalog… it would simply be an apples and oranges comparison. In regards to the launch of the SDK and API's, I made several mentions about it in my article and think it was covered sufficiently.

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