Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android Market doesn't just host more than 10,000 apps, as has been widely reported. Nope, the store now hosts better than 17,000 programs, and should surpass 20,000 before years' end. Here's why:


New Android Apps












These numbers should scare Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Developers clearly like what Google has to offer with Android, and every month they're writing more code for the platform.

Give your robot a hug
But this is more than an embrace -- it's a bear hug. Of the 17,343 apps that had catalogued as of this writing, 65% were submitted between July and November. Only the iPhone is growing its ecosystem faster, which may help to explain why Android's U.S. share of mobile traffic is blossoming even as Palm (NASDAQ:PALM), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Mobile are losing share.

Apple's share is growing, too, also thanks to apps. Phil Schiller, the Mac maker's leading marketing executive, said in a recent interview with BusinessWeek that the App Store is receiving 10,000 new apps each week. Five months of Android Market submissions barely bests one week of inflow at the App Store.

And yet we may see that gap begin to close. Top developers are speaking out against the way Apple vets software. Among the crowd you'll find Joe Hewitt, lead developer for Facebook's iPhone app. He told BusinessWeek that he is "philosophically opposed" to Apple acting as a gatekeeper to users. Android Market has no such restrictions.

If anything, Google is encouraging more submissions by sponsoring an annual American Idol­-style contest for coders. Winners receive hundreds of thousands in cash, plus a chance to sell their wares via an increasingly impressive array of Android smartphones, such as Motorola's (NYSE:MOT) Droid.

The cost of quality control
Schiller, for his part, told the magazine that Apple prides itself on building and delivering quality products to users and considers the vetting process part of quality control. That does seem fair. Those who saw a despicable app called "Baby Shaker" might even call the Mac maker's QA process a welcome enhancement.

If developers aren't as happy, it's because software development is an iterative process that's interrupted by Apple's gatekeeping. It's a startling precedent, really. Microsoft doesn't allow Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) to place limits on the software it delivers to customers via their PCs.

"Programmers don't use launch-fast-and-iterate out of laziness. They use it because it yields the best results. By obstructing that process, Apple is making them do bad work, and programmers hate that as much as Apple would," writes developer Paul Graham in this essay.

Where are you now, Joseph Heller?
We should take Graham seriously; he's a successful programmer and entrepreneur and the founder of Y Combinator, a venture firm that hosts a twice-annual bootcamp for hungry coders looking to create the Next Big Thing.

Even so, Apple is right to be careful. "Baby Shaker" created a firestorm when it was released. Opening the process would mean exposing the iPhone to more morons, more often. Keeping the App Store under lock and key is the safest play.

In short: this is a lose-lose decision for Apple -- a Catch-22 that's sure to make Google's robotic Android smile.

But that's also just my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Should Apple open the App Store submission process? Please take a moment to vote in the poll below. You can also sound off in the comments box at the bottom.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy shakes martinis and splashes olives.