With iPhone App Store having close to 100,000 applications, the most intriguing question is that can any other platform match the enormous ecosystem advantage iPhone has through these applications? On the flip side, top 40 applications in iPhone are really what 90% of people care about. So will Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile et al level the playing field by getting these top 40 applications on their platform?
Indirect network effect of the applications (apart from the design genius) makes iPhone one of the most wanted gadgets today. It’s the same network effect that gave Windows the edge in personal computing and is working for Facebook in social networks. But one industry difference makes iPhone more vulnerable than Windows in 90s and that is the openness of the competitive platforms. In the smartphone world, all platforms are open for software developers to launch their applications. The developers who wrote applications for iPhone will pretty much write applications for BlackBerry et al if they see traction for these phones and their applications in the market. If the competitive platforms are good enough to rope in the top applications on their platforms, they might be able to bridge the gap.
But then there’s the long tail. You go somewhere, you remember it because that was the place where you found that obscure song you were looking for, a copy of that biography you didn’t find anywhere else, or that phone application which helped you survive in a foreign country. With close to 100,000 applications, you can find almost anything in the iPhone App Store based on your needs at any given time and it will be a while before a competitive platform catch-up on that.
So will top 40 level the playing field? Well it depends. If the tail behind the head is long enough to attract the masses, the company with the long tail can survive the competitive attacks. What is required in this case is to make sure that the customers realize that you have got the long tail. Your communication with your target customer base should focus on, among other things, the long tail.