Summary:

Apple’s quickly racing to break the 10-billion download mark in its app store. In fact, by the time you read this, it may have already made…

Apple's App Store: 10 billion downloads

Apple’s quickly racing to break the 10-billion download mark in its app store. In fact, by the time you read this, it may have already made it. The milestone points to Apple’s continuing, and exponential growth — despite the growth of usage on other mobile platforms and the fact that Android-based devices are now overtaking the iPhone in terms of unit sales.

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) may have sped up today’s download rate by offering a tantalising reward: “Download the 10 billionth app, and you could win a US $10,000 iTunes Gift Card,” but even without that promotion, the company is still showing accelerating growth.

Apple, which launched its app store in 2008, reached 1 billion downloads on April 23, 2009, and 5 billion 410 days after that on June 7, 2009. If 10 billion happens today, that will mean that it took only 222 days to get that next 5 billion.

Android is certainly picking up speed in its own app store effort, with 160,000 apps in its Market compared to Apple’s 300,000-plus catalog. But one company that Apple might not be seeing much competition from at the moment is Microsoft.

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) may be gearing up for a fight on who should be allowed to market under the name “app store” to consumers, but if you go purely by what the company has done so far in apps, it’s fighting from a very challenged position.

Windows Phone 7, the company’s latest mobile OS, currently counts some 5,000 apps in its app store. That means that download traffic is inherently lower in its Marketplace.

One bizarre detail, picked up with Chitika Research, underscores how low traffic really is.

Analysing traffic from its network of 100,000 publishers, it turns out that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 is driving about half as much traffic as a much older Microsoft platorm, Windows 98.

Dan Ruby, who heads up research at Chitika, notes that “Growth is happening, but not very quickly.” He says that in December, Windows Phone 7 was sending about 0.4 percent as much traffic as iPhone and Android (combined). “At present, that number has risen slightly – to an average of 0.44 percent.”

One trend that might influence the shift to more traffic, at least in apps, was pointed out by some research from the apps tracker Distimo, who noted back in November that pricing in Microsoft’s new Marketplace are priced cheaper than in earlier generations of the store.

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