1 Million Apps = 7 Free Apps per Person

I’m glad Palm is giving the Pre everything they’ve got but I gotta tell you, I’m a little worried. Current estimates place the sales at around 150K units sold. Not bad, but that’s around 1/2 of what the original iPhone did in two days two years ago. (Although it’s pretty close to the Android sales numbers.) meanwhile, the SDK still isn’t out, and the hints we’ve seen of it suggests that we could face some pretty powerful development limits.

The latest announcement of a million downloads is nice and all, but considering the apps are free, that means each of the 150K users have downloaded 7 free apps. The most impressive thing about this is that Palm is actually doing a pretty darn good job of convincing the tech blog sites that this is a big deal.

To put this in perspective, Apple has over 2,700,000 downloads each DAY for the past year*. And many of these are paid apps.

It might be hard to believe but really, I DO want Palm to succeed at this. I’m just disappointed because I’m just not feeling confident that they will. I’d LOVE to see another strong handheld in the market – it’s good for business! I just feel like maybe we’re seeing more of the same problems that have plagued the company for the past few years.

* To address something I am sure will come up, reports indicated that Apple sold 2.2 Million apps (free AND paid) during their release weekend so the overall average isn’t far off.

7 thoughts on “1 Million Apps = 7 Free Apps per Person

  1. Elia Freedman

    I wouldn’t make an “apples” to oranges comparison here, as iPhone was on AT&T and Palm is on Sprint. I’m actually surprised at the strong demand for devices, given Sprint’s position in the US market. The good news is people are downloading apps, free or not. I doubt Palm owners installed seven apps per person in the old days.

  2. Marc

    @Elia: I might say that for Symbian or WinMo Elia, but not for Palm. I’ve continually brought up the PalmGear store which at its height had tens of thousands of applications. It was very much like the AppStore today. And Palm OS users were, at least from what we saw, quite active application installers and users.

    I think the key thing for me is that right now there are a LOT of mobile tech sites talking about this and really cheering Palm for it. I’d like to see a few of those sites take a more critical look at this rather than just resending the Palm Press Release. Again – I’m not wishing any ill on Palm – but as a software developer, I can’t afford to go along with the hype – I have to do a hard nuts and bolts comparison to judge just how successful the platform truly is.

  3. Alex

    It might be hard for Ilium to bring eWallet to the Pre. Depends on what the final SDK looks like. But in its current incarnation while the app itself could easily be designed and run on Pre, the backend engine of actually encrypting your data would be so slow you’d spend a few minutes waiting for the data to be encrypted.

  4. Brian

    I would strongly encourage Ilium to create a version of eWallet for the Pre. There are lots of Palm users moving from an older device to a Pre (in addition to new users, of course), and I wouldn’t think you’d want to miss out on that opportunity.

    Marc, you said:

    “I’m glad Palm is giving the Pre everything they’ve got but I gotta tell you, I’m a little worried. Current estimates place the sales at around *150K* units sold. Not bad, but that’s around 1/2 of what the original iPhone did in two days two years ago. (Although it’s pretty close to the Android sales numbers.) meanwhile, the SDK still isn’t out, and the hints we’ve seen of it suggests that we could face some pretty powerful development limits.” (emphasis added)

    That number is actually half of what’s been widely reported now, and I don’t see any reason to doubt the numbers. Palm’s biggest problem right now seems to be keeping the Pre in stock, rather than selling it.

    Of course, with 300,000 sold, and 1,0000,000 downloads, that means only 3 apps (roughly) per person. But you’re ignoring something significant: It’s fairly widely known that the Pre App Catalog only has ~ 30 apps, total. Is it any wonder, with that kind of catalog, that people have a hard time finding something they’d want to download? In other words, part of the problem is precisely because companies like Ilium haven’t been able to supply their apps to the catalog. Once that changes, you’ll see the download numbers change, too.

    I’m not even sure the comparison with the original iPhone is valid, though. That phone, after all, was one of the most hyped, advertized, and anticipated cell phones ever. By comparison, the Pre had very little attention outside of the tech press, and even a lot of that either faded or turned into hostility when release details weren’t immediately forthcoming, and Palm played their hands so close to their chests (going so far as to not let mere mortals even touch the Pre). In short, while there was undoubtedly a lot of hype surrounding the Pre, it had nothing like the fanfare that the iPhone received. (My sister-in-law, when she heard I was buying a Palm phone, actually said, “Palm’s still around?”)

    I’m not knocking the iPhone as a device, and I’m not saying that Palm handled the Pre launch spectacularly. What I’m saying is that you can’t take the fact that Pre’s downloads were lower than the iPhone’s downloads in the first week to be a sign that there’s little interest in software for the Pre. You should think about what the future will look like for the Pre before you decide the platform is DOA.

    The SDK not being out is really the biggest hurdle right now. I know that keeps developers wary. But IMHO, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, either. If you check out PreCentral.net, you’ll see there’s a healthy “homebrew” community that’s built up around the Pre, and that apps are being developed for it, regardless. You just don’t see them right now because they’re not in the App Catalog, and you have to do some fairly “geeky” things to install them. (On the Linux side, the geek factor is easily fixed by scripting. On the Windows side, I’m not sure what can be done to facilitate homebrew installations.)

    I agree with Alex that it could be harder to develop an app with encryption for the Pre. But it’s not an intractable problem. There *are* programs that do encryption on the Pre, after all.

  5. Marc Post author

    “It’s fairly widely known that the Pre App Catalog only has ~ 30 apps, total.”

    Or one might argue that, with 30 apps all free, there is no reason people shouldn’t be downloading more of them.

    “Of course, with 300,000 sold”

    I believe the actual statistic is 300,000 sold to resellers. It is unclear whether everyone is selling out everywhere.

    “That phone, after all, was one of the most hyped, advertized, and anticipated cell phones ever.”

    But in the end it doesn’t matter WHY something is successful or not. All that matters is whether it IS successful. So sure, from a “let’s be fair” perspective, you have to consider everything you said – but from a business perspective all that matters is the bottom line.

    “What I’m saying is that you can’t take the fact that Pre’s downloads were lower than the iPhone’s downloads in the first week to be a sign that there’s little interest in software for the Pre.”

    I’m afraid I disagree. It truly is a numbers game in business. Quality, coolness, potential only matter if they translate into sales. Same with interest. It doesn’t matter WHY sales are high or low – it just matters sales ARE high or low.

    And if Palm thought they COULD sell more devices, they would have made more devices – you don’t purposely sabotage potential profit – all the talk about creating artificial demand is fine, but in the end if someone says “You could sell 500K devices Palm!” then they’re going to make 500K devices, not 300K.

    “You should think about what the future will look like for the Pre before you decide the platform is DOA. ”

    That wasn’t the point of my post and I never said that. First, I was marvelling that relatively weak numbers in comparison to their number one competitor was being lauded as an accomlishment. This strikes me as some incredible marketing on the part of Palm.

    Second, I am concerned that if things don’t pick up and pick up quickly, Palm Pre will fade into obscurity. More popular smartphones that sell software is actually GOOD for us so I want them to succeed. But no matter how much “Good job Palm!” people give them, if the numbers aren’t there to back it up, it won’t matter.

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