Apple's 100,000 point lead

In this political season, why not talk about the roughest political argument of them all: the real meaning of Apple’s announcement of over 100,000 apps in the app store. Are these apps important because, as Steve Ballmer says, the iPhone doesn’t handle the Internet well? Are these apps a testament to a strong ecosystem? Or are these apps a testament to Apple’s marketing might and the perception that you just might make your millions by selling a flashlight app for the Touch?

The announcement, which basically says that there are over 100,000 applications available for the iPhone and iPod Touch with some of the true winners – Smule’s I Am T-Pain, for example – getting 10,000 or more downloads a day.

Clearly the concept of an app store is compelling. Why, then, hasn’t this taken off in the Windows Mobile space and why hasn’t Anrdoid’s market truly taken off?

The singular reason is obviously OS age, in Microsoft’s case, and OS fragmentation, in Android’s case. We’ll ignore Symbian for now because, well, it’s a nice operating system but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile has been around for almost a decade. All the apps that could have been made for it have been made for it and, like a tired mule team the developers just can’t push out any more juice. Sure, you can make plenty of cash in the WinMo arena, but it’s all on your own marketing dime. Apple excels at marketing.

In Android’s case you have multiple “branches” of the OS for multiple devices. HTC and Motorola have their own UI tweaks and these branches for programmers to recompile for multiple devices. This, obviously, is a big issue for mom and pop shops run by a few developers and even worse for the 14-year-olds out there building apps in their basements.

So Apple’s refusal to expand its product line has finally paid off. By creating a regimented army of drone devices to run its marketplace they’ve ensured absolute compatibility at the cost of, potentially, consumer choice.

But, and I state this only to be devil’s advocate, does this consumer choice come with too great a cost — namely an app ecosystem that underperforms for the average consumer?