In the past few years of the smartphone market, the strength of a mobile platform's app store has been a strong indicator for popularity and success. Apple's App Store and Android's Marketplace both have several hundred thousand applications (about 400k for Apple, 300k for Android), compared to BlackBerry's 35,000 or so and Windows Phone's 20,000. (These are all just estimates from the web, but you get the point.)
However, this trend might be shifting away from the importance of the app store. One reason is because as mobile development explodes, there's money out there for everyone, meaning that most of the very popular, very attractive apps are coming out on all the platforms. But there's another trend on the horizon: cross-platform application access.
It started with the announcement that the BlackBerry Playbook would be able to run Android apps. Just recently, a company called BlueStacks joined the mobile space with a solution to run Android applications on Windows. (Windows desktop that is, not phone. But we'll get to that in a bit.)
The way that BlueStacks does this, no surprise, is virtualization. But, while the solution is not available yet, it looks pretty clean and seamless. And the track record of Rosen Sharma, CEO of BlueStacks (on his seventh start up) indicates that the offering is going to be a hit.
Below is a video showcasing the technology.
What's the Big Deal?
OK, so what does this mean for app stores in general? If BlueStacks' solution is a hit, they will most likely expand their offering to other platforms (Mac, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, etc.). And if everyone can access Android applications, that will shift developers toward using Android.
Or, maybe BlueStacks won't catch on, either because users just aren't that concerned about accessing Android (because they have the apps they need on their other platforms), or because the solution doesn't deliver as promised. But if the former is true, then already the app store battle is largely over. I'm betting that BlueStacks will be a success, so I simply don't expect the latter.
One question that remains unanswered is whether current security issues with Android will be addressed. That's one thing that may keep Android from expanding across desktop and mobile OSs.
So what's next? Expect to see the BlueStacks solution pre-packaged with Windows 7 notebooks and tablets, available through enterprise distribution with Citrix and Microsoft, and available as a downloadable app, all later this year.
Regardless of how this affects the market as a whole, it means good things for enterprises. Companies can develop home-grown applications on Android, or standardize across public Android applications, and make them available to all users.