The most important number uttered yesterday (a truly staggering one) however, is 50 million. That is the combined number of iPhone and iPod Touch units now in circulation. Many of us think about the App Store as it relates to the iPhone, but for millions of users (especially teens), the Touch is quickly becoming the platform of choice, and the applications are helping to sell it.
While all of the gadget freaks may have been disappointed by the meager hardware rollouts this week, the real message I got yesterday is that Apple knows that it has a massive content platform on its hands now. The key developments in the iTunes Store and on the iPhone/Touch deck are about merchandising. Finally. After a decade of mobile content development, someone is going to take content discovery and marketing seriously. Ads networks that are serving banners and interstitials into this platform should have a new response to the usual complaint about iPhone-centricity. No, this is not a sexy niche anymore.
The other figure that is too big to ignore is 21,178 -- the number of game titles in that ecosystem. Again, the volume of gaming apps is both impressive and troubling. Since I started this column many years ago, it has become an annual ritual to write an entry urging Nintendo to come in and "own the mobile gaming space...please?" The brilliance that company showed in mobilizing the game experience for the GameBoy and DS platforms made the phone-centric gaming world look sad.
Too late, now. Nintendo's DSiWare store and the upcoming smaller Sony PSP Go unit are playing catch-up. They both have their own app stores with snackable titles. The DSi grew a camera and better browsing. The PSP Go will be pocketable.
As much as I love my dedicated handheld gaming units, the smart phone and the iPod are likely to squeeze them down, if not out. The fact that Electronic Art yesterday released its Madden NFL '10 iteration of the legendary franchise in the App Store tells the tale. My understanding is that no DS version is planned this year. In fact, EA's new title is already planted at the top of the Top Grossing titles tab.
The most interesting thing to me about the App ecosystem is how it seems to have revived, if not salvaged, two long-struggling mobile content segments that never quite lived up to our high expectations - gaming and video. I will save the video piece for a later, fuller exploration. Suffice to say, applications with live streaming and on-demand content are going to be a very hot piece of the business in coming months. To be sure, the iPhone/iPod devices made both gaming and video genuinely enjoyable in this form factor. But the applications model finally allows for a greater flexibility in packaging, pricing and sampling of video and games than we have seen before, and it frees the medium from competing technologies. But most of all, the app platforms is giving marketers a much wider palette of possibilities for leveraging games and video. There now are ways for marketers to enhance and underwrite game and video experiences rather than interrupt them.
What was a disappointment to the gadget dweebs yesterday should have been good news for content providers and marketers. Now we are talking less about the technology and more about the medium.