The Pre App Catalog Is Tracking Way, Way Behind Apple's App Store. And It's Palm's Fault.

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440515255_ab7a9dba09One month after the launch of the App Store in 2008, Apple had seen over 60 million downloads of its apps. The Palm Pre hasn’t been out for a month yet, but it’s about halfway there, so how close is it to that number? Not close at all. Not in the same ballpark. Not even in the same city.

Palm’s App Catalog has seen roughly 666,000 app downloads in its first 12 days, according to the mobile analytics firm Medialets. And what’s worse is that the download momentum is slightly slowing down since the initial launch. So don’t be too surprised if one month after the launch, the App Catalog downloads are near 1 million. Yes, 1/60th of what the App Store was doing last year.

So why is that? After all, reports are that the Pre itself is selling pretty well. Well, the reasons are fairly obvious, and are all Palm’s fault. Right now, there are only 30 apps in the App Catalog. That’s up from 18 at launch, but there have been no new ones in just about a week now. How many did the App Store have at launch last year? Over 500. And more importantly, the rate of expansion was massive — which led to those 60 million downloads in the first month.

The reason the Pre has so few apps is because it has limited who has access to its webOS SDK. Even today, only select developers can get it, to start working on apps. And that’s better than it could have been — initially, Palm wasn’t planning to launch with an app store at all, according to Medialets. But that would have been a really bad move. The smartphone wars today are at least partially being measured by the various app stores, on top of actual device sales. While the iPhone is far from the most popular device around the world, the App Store has had over 1 billion downloads now, and has over 50,000 apps.

If you were buying a phone today and had to choose between a device with 50,000 apps and one with 30 apps, which would you choose? Yeah.

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To be fair, Apple had a built-in advantage at the launch of the App Store — there were already a few million first generation iPhones out there. Palm attempted to launch the entire package: new device, new OS and new app store, all at the same time. As Medialets notes, the other company that did this recently was Google with its Android platform late last year — but it didn’t have to make the phone, HTC made the G1. Still, Android also failed to secure the type of launch the App Store had for its Android Market. It’s still growing, but not nearly as fast as the App Store.

And don’t expect things to pick up anytime soon for the App Catalog. While more developers do have their hands on the SDK now, there is still no real infrastructure to do things such as app payments. That’s something that really hamstrung the Android Market early on.

But farther in the future, Palm does have a second device running the webOS coming out. That should undoubtedly help move some apps. Of course, perhaps you heard, Apple has a new device of its own coming out tomorrow.

[photo: flickr/robert thomson]

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