The NOOK app store launched on April 25th and when I first checked the Nook Shop (Barnes and Noble's version of an app store) there were 140 apps available. I downloaded Angry Birds, of course (just in case I forgot my iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch somewhere but happened to have my NOOK Color with me), but otherwise didn't see a whole lot that was compelling. Ah well, no one expects a full slew of apps right on launch day, right? Since the NOOK Color is now running an Android variant (Froyo or 2.2), the app count should easily surge. Minor tweaks such as removing code specific to cameras, cell phone features, GPS and optimizing the graphics for the NOOK Color's display followed by a submission process are the only real requirement for developers to port their existing Android apps over the Nook Shop.
It's been three weeks now and I thought it was about time to check back in and see how things are progressing. Well, as of this writing, the app count is now up to 150. A whole 10 apps in three weeks. That's not a huge improvement…
How have other app stores fared as they went through their launch phase?
Apple's App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch:
Launched on July 10, 2008 with 500 apps. According to Apple, three days later the number of apps available had already hit 800 and within six weeks of launch, that number had grown to 3,000 apps. Pretty impressive, especially considering most of these apps were created from scratch instead of merely going through minor tweaks and a submission process.
The Android Market:
Officially this launched on October 22, 2008 with 62 apps, but paid apps were't available until March 13, 2009. By March 17 -four days after the launch of the full Android Market with paid apps- there were 2,300 apps available.
Amazon's App Store:
Launching on March 22, 2011, Amazon offered up its own app store for Android devices. The launch titles included over 900 games alone and I count just under 2,000 games apps there today. Of course there's a ton of apps in every other category too.
BlackBerry App World for PlayBook
Launched on April 19, 2011 with somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3,000 apps. As of this moment, that's up to 30,000 (the rapid increase reflecting both the ease of porting Android apps and the fact that BlackBerry App World counts wallpapers and e-books as apps).
There are other app stores out there, but I think this provides a pretty decent point of comparison. And the stats show that not only did the NOOK Shop launch with a relatively low number of apps available out of the gate, but its growth in app availability has seriously under performed compared to other app stores. Mind you, it isn't quite so black and white as comparing app numbers. For one thing, only a month ago the NOOK Color was being sold purely as an e-reader, not a tablet. The market for NOOK Color users (with somewhere in the neighbourhood of three million of the devices being sold) is absolutely dwarfed by the potential number of customers for the other apps stores: in just the 4th quarter of 2010 alone, an additional 33.3 million Android smartphones, 16.2 million iPhones and 14.6 million BlackBerries were sold, and that doesn't count the millions of tablet PC, iPad and iPod Touch sales. Clearly, the NOOK Color is a niche market, and a little low on the priority side for developers scrambling to get their products into other app stores that launched in the same timeframe, such as Amazon's and RIM's.
According to a Wired article, Barnes & Noble has over 5,000 developers signed up to port apps to the NOOK Shop, so there's still hope that things will ramp up. But in the meantime, if the NOOK Color is your primary platform for using apps (and you're not prepared to do something as extreme as hack it to run Android to gain access to the Android Market), then you'd best be a big fan of Angry Birds for now.