By way of comparison, Palm's webOS App Catalog took more than a year to climb up as high as 3,000 apps, and didn't reach 4,000 apps until September of this year -- 15 months after it launched.
Looking at the numbers, Microsoft grew from zero to 4,000 in less than two months' time. It took Palm 15 months to achieve the same growth. Palm's App Catalog is still inching up, however, and now has grown to about 6,000 apps since September. Right now, that averages out to 2,000 new apps per month for WP7 (4,000/2), and 333 new apps per month for webOS (6000/18).
If the growth rates remain the same, the number of apps for WP7 could pass the number of apps for the older webOS platform as soon as the first quarter of 2011.
Based on this data -- and the initial set of marquee apps that were available at WP7's launch -- it's clear that Microsoft is taking its app store very seriously. Still, its share of the modern smartphone market is but a drop in the pond.
Microsoft hasn't shared any sales figures for Windows Phone 7 yet, and in fact, WP7 rep Joe Balfiore recently said that it's way too early to talk numbers. That hasn't stopped people from guessing. Right now, based on various tools on the web, the estimate is that there are under 200,000 active users of Windows Phone 7 handsets worldwide.
Right now, WP7 phones are only available from AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. Sprint and Verizon have indicated they won't start selling WP7 hardware until some point in 2011. Microsoft has said that an update for the WP7 platform should be expected early in 2011. I'd also expect a second wave of WP7 handsets to be rolled out at Mobile World Congress, in February.
Meanwhile, Palm has been working hard on version 2.0 of its webOS platform. Palm plans to transition away from its Mojo developer environment starting in early 2011 and will replace it with a new developer environment called Enyo. Enyo is faster and easier to work with than Mojo, says Palm, and it borrows heavily from Palm's browser-based developer tool, called Ares.
Palm also announced forthcoming changes to the App Catalog. Starting in early 2011, the App Catalog will support carrier billing (this is a big, big deal for end users). Palm didn't say which carriers would offer billing, however. Palm also said that it is giving app developers the ability to create promotional codes for their apps, so they can be given away for free. Last, Palm will introduce a new version of the App Catalog with the general release of webOS 2.0. The new version will offer better search tools, refined browsing, and better app category groupings.
Perhaps these changes will increase the rate at which developers publish apps for webOS.