Apple will rule billion-dollar mobile app market for years

New report also says Google will see a surge in mobile app sales this year, while RIM and Nokia bring up the rear

Apple is poised to own three-quarters of the major $3.8 billion mobile application market this year, according to research company IHS Screen Digest, and will continue to own as much as 60 percent of that sumptuous pie through 2014.

Google, meanwhile, has gained ground on Apple and is poised to knock beleaguered RIM into the third-place slot. Bringing up the rear in the ranking of the top four purveyors of mobile apps is Nokia. Perhaps Microsoft will place next year, now that it has a handle on cut and paste in Windows Phone Mobile.

Steve Ballmer is likely kicking himself for Microsoft fall so far behind in the extraordinarily lucrative mobile space. Revenue from mobile app sales have skyrocketed since 2008, according to IHS. Back then, the Apple App Store was the only game in town, and the market was worth a mere $206 million and change. That figure leaped to $830.6 million in 2009, then to $2.1 billion in 2010, as more competitors entered the fray. Looking ahead, IHS foresees the market continuing to rise in billion-dollar increments up to $8.3 billion come 2014.

Apple's ability to roll out the first viable mobile OS capable of running on phones, tablets, and MP3 players has given it a hefty lead on the pack. IHS foresees the Apple App Store raking in $2.91 billion this year, a 63.4 percent leap from the $1.78 billion it earned in 2010. All told, IHS predicts Apple will take in 76 percent of mobile app revenue this year -- and will even be sitting pretty in 2014 with a predicted 60 percent market share, despite the inevitable increase in competition.

Google, for the time being, poses the greatest threat to Apple's share of the mobile app market. IHS said that Android will see the fastest growth this year, with Android Market revenue swelling 295.4 percent to $425.36 million.

RIM, conversely, will tumble into third place, per IHS, with expected revenue from mobile apps at $279.1 million -- despite revenue growth of 69.2 percent. According to IHS, BlackBerry App World will have the fewest downloads in 2011, around 772 million. By comparison, downloads from the Apple App Store will total 10.3 billion; the Google Marketplace will see 5.8 billion downloads.

Lastly, the Nokia Ovi Store will earn less revenue than BlackBerry App World, $201.5 million, but will boast a higher number of app downloads with 1.1 billion, IHS predicts.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.