I believe that a major focus in mobile in 2011 will be to better help users find the mobile applications that are best suited to them. Sure, application store providers have created a catalog of applications and can tell you the most popular applications by categories.
For example, here are the categories provided by Apple for their App Store: Books, Business, Education, Entertainment, Finance, Games, Health care and fitness, Lifestyle, Medical, Music, Navigation, News, Photography, Productivity, Reference, Social networking, Sports, Travel, Utilities and Weather.
With 20 different categories in the iTunes App Store, that's an average of 15,000 applications per category. Unless it just happens to be one of the best-selling applications, you may not find out about it-even though it might be the perfect application for you.
I think that we'll see more effort placed by the producers of application stores (from firms such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM and other suppliers such as PocketGear) to assist users in finding, trying out and buying applications for their smartphone. This is part Search and part user profile analysis.
App Search is a problem similar to Web Search but different because it's not about finding lots of possible Web pages (often hundreds). Instead, it's about finding applications that the user might actually like, and perhaps about offering ways (via animation and videos) to show the person the application before they ever download it.
Another big opportunity in App Search will be advertising. Just as in Web Search, App Search will likely provide ads from vendors who want to convince you that their application is the one you should buy instead of what the App Search engine presents to you. App Search will also likely provide ads from vendors who want to promote their brand as you are searching.
In any event, App Search is already a challenge. It always happens in new and growing markets: App Stores create wonderful new solutions but also create new challenges (such as how to find the most appropriate application out of the tens of thousands of possibilities).
I call on entrepreneurs and other bright people to help solve this growing problem. If you have a great solution to this problem, send me a note. I'd love to hear from you.
J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, Dr. Purdy focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Dr. Purdy is an "edge of network" analyst looking at devices, applications and services, as well as wireless connectivity to those devices. Dr. Purdy provides critical insights regarding mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of the column Inside Mobile & Wireless that provides industry insights and is read by over 100,000 people a month.
Dr. Purdy continues to be affiliated with the venture capital industry as well. He currently is Managing Director at Yosemite Ventures. And he spent five years as a Venture Advisor for Diamondhead Ventures in Menlo Park where he identified, attracted and recommended investments in emerging companies in mobile and wireless. He has had a prior affiliation with East Peak Advisors and, subsequently, following their acquisition, with FBR Capital Markets. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, as well as developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, Dr. Purdy's ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile and wireless industry. He is author of three books as well.
Dr. Purdy currently is a member of the Program Advisory Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which produces CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world. He is a frequent moderator at CTIA conferences and GSM Mobile World Congress. He also is a member of the Board of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. Dr. Purdy has a B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Exercise Physiology from Stanford University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time.