Thanks to Apple's App Store and Google's rougher-around-the-edges Android Market, mobile-application-store sales will top $15 billion in 2011, Gartner said Jan. 26.
The $15 billion number, up 190 percent from $5.2 billion in 2010, counts both users buying applications and applications generating ad revenue on smartphones and tablet computers.
Consumers will download 17.7 billion applications this year, more than doubling from the 8.2 billion downloads installed in 2010, according to the researcher.
Gartner expects free downloads will account for 81 percent of total mobile-application-store downloads in 2011. However, users will begin paying for more applications as quality and billing systems are boosted.
"Application stores have become a highly visible and potentially lucrative part of the smartphone ecosystem, largely due to Apple's App Store, said Gartner analyst Stephanie Baghdassarian.
Apple, which Gartner claimed accounted for nine out of 10 application downloads in 2010, said Jan. 22 that its App Store had passed the 10 billion download mark.
The online store, which offers more than 300,000 applications for download on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, is praised for making it easy to locate and purchase applications.
Baghdassarian also noted that owners of application stores "need to rise to the challenges of attracting developers, organizing content and engaging users throughout the life of the store in order to remain profitable."
This is a clear stab at Google's Android Market, which has more than 100,000 applications. While Apple's App Store has set the gold standard for application stores, Android Market is struggling to reduce spammy applications and improve billing options to boost paid application sales.
Android-platform developer Eric Chu said Jan. 25 that Google is not happy with the Market's paid application purchase volume.
Smartphones aren't the only devices to get loaded with applications. Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said media tablets such as Apple's iPad and Android-based tablets, RIM's PlayBook and other devices will drive more downloads from consumers.
Gartner analysts don't see the mobile-application market as a passing fad; they forecast that, by 2014, 185 billion applications will be downloaded from online stores such as Apple's App Store, Android Market, Nokia's Ovi Store, Research In Motion's App World, Microsoft Marketplace and Samsung Apps.
Gartner also said Apple's App Store will remain the best-selling store through 2014, although to a lesser extent, as the Android Market and other shops gain momentum.