Turns out this mobile apps thing is really catching on

Nearly 8 billion mobile apps downloaded in 2010, research firm says

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Last year consumers downloaded 7.9 billion mobile applications, according to data from ABI Research.

Leading the pack, not surprisingly, was Apple's iTunes App Store, which recorded 5.6 billion downloads in 2010. But Google's Android Market is rapidly becoming a popular mobile apps destination for consumers. Accumulated downloads from Android Market and third-party platforms topped 1.9 billion last year, ABI Research Associate Fei Feng Seet said.

(Also see: Google tries to close mobile apps gap with Apple)

Given the ambitious roll-out of tablet computers and the introduction of the Apple iPhone to Verizon customers, don't be surprised if more than 10 billion mobile apps are downloaded in 2011.

“The iTunes App Store only targets iOS users; that leaves more room for other platform application stores to step up and focus on ‘non-Apple’ clientele,” Seet said in a press release. “Android smartphone quarterly shipments now exceed Apple’s. Android Market currently features more than 130,000 apps in 48 countries, nearly half of iTunes App Store’s catalog."

The Wall Street Journal reported in late January that Google is planning to hire "dozens of software developers to create applications for smartphones and other mobile devices."

Then there's Research in Motion, which is trying to become a mobile apps player. ABI Research estimates that more than 1 billion BlackBerry apps have been downloaded. Should RIM's PlayBook tablet take off with consumers, RIM's piece of the mobile apps market should increase.

“RIM has also been making a conscious effort to increase BlackBerry’s footprint in the mobile apps market, as seen in its recent aggressive expansion to over 100 markets, and developer conferences it has held in United States and Indonesia,” Seet said.

Apple, Google and RIM could have company soon. According to ABI Research mobile marketing practice director Neil Strother, “More mobile network operators are also considering entry into the mobile application market. India’s Idea Cellular, for example, just launched its Online Application Store shortly in advance of its 3G network launch.”

Research firm Gartner expects mobile-apps revenue to top $15 billion this year and $25 billion in 2012.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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