iPad Apps Reach 100,000: TouchPad, PlayBook Under Gun

Can HP's TouchPad, RIM's PlayBook, or any other tablet touch Apple with its deep developer support?
Applications written specifically for Apple's iPad now number in the six digits. That's at least two digits more than any other tablet app store can claim to have.

On April 3 of this year, one year exactly after its 2010 release, the iPad app store held 75,000 apps. Three months later, another 25,000 have been added for a total surpassing 100,000, according to MacStories. Can that pace continue? It's hard to believe that it will, but the number of apps added to the App Store for the iPhone hasn't slowed at all, recently surpassing the 500,000 mark. Clearly, the iOS platform has massive support from the developer community.

Do any of the other tablet platforms enjoy similar developer support? Not if you're counting apps.

The HP TouchPad launches Friday. This new webOS-based tablet will have access to about 300 dedicated applications when customers pull it out of the box, according to HP. That's not a bad start, and certainly a much better leap from the gate than Google's Honeycomb platform. HP believes the number of apps for the TouchPad will grow quickly, thanks to new developer tools it is offering. I'm not convinced.

Two years after the release of the first webOS device, there are still fewer than 10,000 apps available to HP's webOS smartphones. Given the lukewarm reviews of the TouchPad--called by one reviewer a "meh-sterpiece, rather than a masterpiece"--developers might take a wait-and-see approach before they target the TouchPad.

As for Honeycomb, the tablet platform from Google launched with only a few dozen dedicated applications. Four months later, that number has surely grown, but not by much. Reports of the number of dedicated Honeycomb apps vary, but the largest number I've seen is 1,300. Obviously, the growth rate for Android tablet apps is much slower than the growth rate for iPad apps.

RIM's PlayBook is also sadly lacking in the app department. There are no consistent reports of what the grand total is right now, either. The PlayBook needs apps badly, though the ones it needs most should come from RIM (cough, email, cough, calendar, cough) and not the developer community.

Switching away from tablets, Microsoft has scored a major victory with developers for its Windows Phone 7 platform. Nine months from launch, the Marketplace for Mobile has hit the 25,000 app mark. Microsoft is talking the right talk and walking the right walk with developers, which are obviously throwing support behind Microsoft's still-nascent smartphone platform. Too bad WP7 has a lowly 1% share of the U.S. smartphone market.

With developers so lopsidedly supporting the iPad, the companies behind other tablet platforms need to redouble their efforts at attracting coders to their tools. Can they do it?

IT is caught in a squeeze between requests for new applications, services, and device support and demands from upper management to keep budgets lean, staffing light, and operations tight. These are irreconcilable objectives as long as we spend the vast majority of our resources on legacy services. Read our report now. (Free registration required.)

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