ABI Research has declared Apple the winner of its Competitive Assessment of mobile application storefronts, placing Google in the runner-up seat. Microsoft was third, but not from every perspective.
The assessment measured the leading app distributors by two dimensions: implementation and innovation.
Apple won the first round ahead of Google and RIM, with ABI touting the company’s “effective approach to monetization, large market share over the app industry, and the ability to achieve a large inventory of titles while maintaining a reasonably strict quality control.”
However, in innovation, where Apple has been used to score only the highest marks in the past decade, ABI is now citing Microsoft as a bigger innovator than its archrival.
ABI was particularly impressed by “Microsoft’s fresh approach to app discovery, as well as Windows Phone store’s overall solid usability.”
The analytics company notes that discovery is a very important piece of the puzzle when carrying out such studies.
That's because “when a customer arrives at an app storefront much of the following download activity is based on how the vendor presents and highlights its inventory, especially through various charts.”
Senior analyst Aapo Markkanen appropriately points out that, despite Apple’s ability to capitalize on the App Store’s head start as an app distributor, “it should really start re-thinking the way it charts the top apps.”
By contrast, Markkanen believes Microsoft should be applauded for its vision to conceive a ranking algorithm that goes beyond “raw download figures.”
Microsoft actually included “factors that can actually measure the customer satisfaction and retention,” says the analyst.
“Retention-based charts are less prone to manipulation, so as an additional plus Microsoft can also afford being more transparent about its approach.”
“Moves like this can help break the developers free from the ‘tyranny of downloads,’ decrease their reliance on costly marketing campaigns, and thus lower the barriers to entry,” adds Markkanen.