Apps: Quality Is Better than Sheer Numbers

All the iPad competitors thus far have been critiqued on one or more grounds: touch experience not as responsive, software not as good overall and/or not enough tablet-specific apps. Indeed this was the headline on Walt Mossberg's review of the new HP TouchPad: TouchPad Needs More Apps, Reboot To Rival iPad.

Mossberg says the following about the paucity of apps on the new tablet:

But the TouchPad will launch with just 300 tablet-optimized apps and only 6,200 webOS apps overall, most written for phones and only 70% of which can run on the tablet, in a small, phone-size window that can’t be expanded. That compares with 425,000 total apps for the iPad and 200,000 for Android tablets, nearly all of which can run on tablets even if they aren’t optimized for the tablet.

Yet there are now so many apps on the iOS platform that discovery is a massive challenge for users, which several companies are seeking to address. This is also true to a lesser degree with Android.

However, according to analyses by Horace Dediu and Nielsen, the average iPhone/iOS user has downloaded between 48 and 60 apps. This is a relatively modest number of apps, not thousands. Thus I don't believe hundreds of thousands of apps are required to be competitive.

With no survey or other empirical support for this hypothesis, I suspect there is a core group of apps (well under 500) that would satisfy most users if they were present. This includes, among some others, Facebook, Netflix, Pandora, Skype, Twitter, The Weather Channel, NY Times, USAToday, Google, Yelp, Mapquest, Amazon/Kindle, eBay, Groupon/LivingSocial and a host of popular games such as Angry Birds.

If this "core group" were optimized for the tablet in question and that tablet were cheaper than the iPad, I could imagine it doing reasonably well. The problem I see with the TouchPad (which I haven't used) is that it's the same price as the iPad and perceived to be inferior in several ways, including the lack of apps.

All the non-iPad tablets in the market save the 7" Galaxy Tab -- and we've yet to see what Amazon comes up with -- are almost totally derivative of the iPad. They're seem like imitators -- and some are more expensive (e.g., Xoom). Why would someone buy a more expensive "imitation"? And Flash does not a better iPad make. 

If they're simply going to mimic the iPad they need to be "good enough" (as Android is to the iPhone) -- and cheaper. They also need to have the right mix of apps. For most people app content and availability is going to be about quality rather than raw quantity. 

See related: So what happened to Kindle on the TouchPad?