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The app market just keeps growing, driven by the explosion of smart phone, tablet and touch device sales. A new research report from Berg Insight indicates that the number of mobile application downloads is expected to reach 108 billion by 2017 with a compound annual growth rate of 17% between now and then.

An article by Saroj Kar, posted on CloudTimes.org, explains, “The number of mobile application downloads worldwide doubled during 2012 and reached 60.1 billion, up from 29.5 billion in 2011. Last year, revenues from paid apps, in-app purchases and subscription services including direct revenue and in-app ad revenue reached $8.4 billion.” That number is expected to grow so that, “by 2017, over 80 percent of all handset shipments will be smartphones, building a large user base that will spur the number of app downloads.”

Mobile app developers shouldn’t start running to the bank just yet though. Much of the anticipated growth will continue in markets where third-party app stores are especially popular, such as China. Kar writes, “Monetization is, however, particularly challenging in these markets, even though free-to-download strategies, such as in-app advertising and in-app payments, are promising and have been moderately successful. More difficult will be how that revenue will be generated. Even though download numbers are increasing, most apps are free. That means free-to-download monetization strategies like in-app advertising and in-app purchasing, for example, will be increasingly important.”

Despite the challenges, a vigorously growing digital marketplace means good things ahead for mobile app developers and publishers. Kar ends her article, “The mobile app market is highly competitive, but the economical upside can be great for the successful publishers. Like almost no other digital product, mobile apps represent a global opportunity with more or less instant worldwide distribution.”

What do you think will be some of the greatest benefits and largest challenges worth acknowledging in a digital strategy as we push ahead to a world where app downloads number 108 billion by 2017?

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