The corporate world's darling, Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM) BlackBerry, will not be able to stop Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android juggernaut, as it lacks a key arsenal in its armory-applications.

A CNN report says that currently, Apple has close to 250,000 apps. Android has 100,000, followed by BlackBerry with 8,000, and Palm WebOS with 3,500 apps.

A recent report by Nielsen revealed that 50% of BlackBerry holders are contemplating switching over to either an iPhone or an Android-based phone. BlackBerry can plug this migration of loyal customers if it is able to increase the number of applications available for its phone.

Applications provide customers the opportunity to personalize their phones with wallpapers, social games, music downloads, and new icons, thus making applications a critical minimum for smartphones.

In fact, the current success of the present smartphone industry is largely driven by the acceptance of the smartphone OS by developers. Apple iPhone App Store says its applications for iPhones are provided after vetting them thoroughly, thus paving the way for developers to produce the best apps for Apple.

Ovum, a Datamonitor company, reported that iPhone manufacturer generated 67% of all mobile application downloads in 2009, though its smartphone market share was only 14%.

Ovum expects mobile application downloads from non-operator application stores to increase by a compound annual growth rate of 41% through 2015. Total downloads over that span are expected to jump to 21.3 billion from 2.69 billion in 2009.

Generally, developers prefer ease of coding in an OS that allows them to migrate successfully to other platforms.

Nonetheless, the Nielsen report suggests that Androids have taken over Apple, being an open-source platform. Thus the Android will compete on the basis of quantity of apps, while Apple iPhones will compete on the basis of quality.

But legalizing jailbreaking could be a game-changer, since it allows reconfiguration of iPhones to adopt Apple's restricted applications. It allows a fair play between Android and iPhones.

This leaves BlackBerry and PalmWeb OS in the lurch. Not long ago, Palm ruled the corporate market, and its Pre model was considered to be an iPhone killer, but due to lack of apps, it was swapped by Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) for a paltry sum of $1.2 billion.

Lack of applications hinders the popularity of smartphones. In case of BlackBerry, users have to wait for another launch instead of updating their devices with new apps.

Moreover, new applications are a key source of after-sales revenue for companies, which the BlackBerry may miss out.

Thus, it's the developer who will decide the future of smartphones. Currently, developers closely watch the new phone sales figures to anticipate the market direction as they get the lead time to write suitable applications. 

The battle will be a choice exercised by developers between competing OSes, and as of now, Google's Android and iPhone iOS are leading the pack. Otherwise, the situation is quite reminiscent of the bygone days of the open-source Linux vs. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows battle.

Ibtimes

International Business Times, The Global Business News Leader