The Macalope Weekly: By the numbers

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There’s a number for pretty much everyone this week. iPhone apps are expected to grow big next year…but not as much as Android apps! Mac market share is down this month…but it’ll go gangbusters in 2010! All these numbers! It’s so confusing! What’s up and what’s down?! Who’s right and who’s wrong?! What does it all mean?!

What? Oh.

The Macalope was hoping maybe you knew.

Cloudy with a chance of apps

This week the Apple Web was all a-twitter (not to be confused with the popular social network of the same name) over a report by IDC predicting the Apple tablet will boost mobile net users to over 1 billion.

The Macalope wonders how, exactly, one predicts the effect of a device no one has seen yet. “We don’t know what it is or what it will do, but it’s going to be huge!” That must be one amazing, magical spreadsheet.

IDC further predicts that the App Store will triple to an astounding 300,000 apps. Not content with this estimate, Charles Jade at the Apple Blog says it’ll be a minimum of half a million apps. Wow! We’re going to be up to our antlers in apps! He also provides a chart with a timescale so erratic that its creation caused Edward Tufte to suddenly feel sad, although he did not know why.

But wait a minute. With all those apps, aren’t we gonna need a bigger boat? Because can you imagine wading through all that on the App Store? Neither can PC World’s Matt Peckham, and the Macalope’s inclined to agree.

It’s hard enough to navigate the App Store now. Hey, maybe Apple’s random rejection of apps is a feature, not a bug!

Besides, who’s going to write 300,000 reviews that say “LAME. COULDN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO WORK IT. NEVER ACTUALLY INSTALLED IT. 99 CENTS IS TOO EXPENSV. SB FREE.”?

That one guy can’t do all of them.


Hard to tell which droids you’re looking for

The other tidbit (not to be confused with TidBITS, the highly-respected Apple Web zine of a similar name) from the report is that IDC expects Android apps to grow fivefold next year to 75,000 apps, based on the proliferation of devices.

Of course, the horny one would be remiss in not pointing out that while the iPhone platform is likely to have some small fragmentation—it’s already fragmented by OS release and the addition of a tablet would probably exacerbate it—the situation on Android is going to be far worse. All apps are simply not going to run on all the different versions of Android devices.

Some people, like Seeking Alpha’s Bruce Everiss, somehow see that as a strength rather than a weakness.

I favour Android to come out on top. Many already think that it has the best system software and being open source it will get better, faster. Anyone can make an Android handset so most manufacturers are doing that. In fact many are making several different models.

The Macalope has a lot of respect for the open-source community—he and Tux play squash together a couple of times a month—but this idea that “because it’s open source it’ll do better” is nonsense. Open source just puts the power in the hands of the handset companies, the same handset companies that have spent the last three years struggling to mimic the iPhone. Google, if it does make a phone, might be able to do something better—the horny one is not about to say they’re “not just going to walk in”—but it’s not even a hardware company.

Who knows, though? Maybe Google’s some kind of hardware savant. It can’t do any worse than the current collection of mobile phone makers who so far haven’t proven themselves to be savants of any kind.

Up is the new down

Another statistic creating a giant wad in the figurative panties (not to be confused with actual panties) of the Apple Web this week was the monthly Net Applications results, which showed the Mac online market share down a startling 0.15 percent! It’s not dropped this much since…uh…

Actually, looking at the graph, it looks like a little less than a year ago. Huh. And there was a similar decline the previous year, all of which was made up by subsequent increases as Mac market share continued a steady climb.

So, what’s the point of this again?

Well, Windows 7 does certainly seem to be catching on and has apparently now taken a bite out of the legacy XP-using community. This is probably showing up now because it took XP users a month to go through the Windows 7 upgrade process. And when the Windows 7 line crosses the Mac line, expect the usual collection of clowns to crow about how there are more Windows 7 users than Mac users, like that means anything.

The Macalope has never thought Net Applications’s numbers should be taken as anything other than a broad yardstick; this breathless monthly reporting is really a waste of effort. But if a 0.15 percent decline in Mac online market share keeps you up at night, you can curl up with a copy of this report from Caris & Company’s Robert Cihra, which predicts Mac sales growth will be 1.6 times faster than PC sales growth in 2010.

Although, your spouse or significant other may look at you kind of funny if you do and possibly suggest some kind of counseling. Because curling up in bed with a Wall Street analyst’s report is just weird.

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