What's a jukebox without the music?

Pretty much a good-looking but useless deadweight, I would say.These days, the same can be said for mobile phones that aren't supported by a strong apps ecosystem.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor on

Pretty much a good-looking but useless deadweight, I would say.

These days, the same can be said for mobile phones that aren't supported by a strong apps ecosystem. What's the good of a phone when you can't flick angry birds at pigs?

I've carried a trusty PDA--now that's an acronym we haven't seen in a while--for at least 10 years, relying on it to keep my contacts, appointments, documents and notes organized. When it finally breathed its last a year ago, I couldn't find a suitable replacement because the PDA market was no longer what it used to be.

So I ended up with an Apple iPod Touch because it was the only available device in the market that came closest to a PDA. Now, it's the first thing I pick up in the morning and the last thing I check before I hit the sack.

No, I'm not obsessed about checking my schedule for the day but I am about reviewing my opponents' next move in Words With Friends and finding out whether my crops are ready to be harvested in Tap Ranch : Red Tulips.

The Touch sports a sleek design but without the strong apps ecosystem behind it, I'd be the first to move on to another that gives me access to one.

And I think that's what matters to most device owners today.

Would the iPhone or iPad be as popular as it is today without Apple's bustling App Store? Probably not. The novelty of a chic product design can only gain limited traction among users. It is the lure of the content and services the device supports that will keep consumers coming back and loyal to the platform--or risk losing their high ranking on Angry Birds.

PDA pioneer, Palm, kinda got that but it packaged its apps in SD cards and made users fork out on average $50 for each card--small wonder then that Palm apps never quite took off.

Apple was first to recognize the potential of building an ecosystem powered by free as well as affordable content. Launched in January 2007, the iPhone didn't really take off until Apple unveiled the App Store in mid-2008, pushing iPhone shipment from 2.3 million in the first quarter of 2008 to almost 6.9 million in the fourth quarter that same year. In the second quarter of 2010, over 8.7 million iPhones were sold.

And now, it seems Apple's competition finally gets it too. Microsoft, Google and Nokia have pledged to intensify efforts to support developers working on Windows Phone, Android and Ovi, respectively.

If executed well, these players have a decided advantage because their mobile platforms are available across a range of brands and phone designs, while Apple apps are accessible only on the iPhone.

Microsoft, in particular, has an extra leg-up because it can also leverage its Xbox games ecosystem to provide a richer user experience that spreads across multiple platforms. And that's what Redmond is promising to offer when Windows Phone 7 is ready for primetime year-end.

With new form factors hitting the device market, particularly the 7-inch, it'll be an exciting space to watch over the next year and more so with platform makers finally putting increased emphasis on building apps.

And they'll want angry birds to fly on their device.

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