(Photo: Flickr / Rob Boudon)
Apple quietly tweaked its App Store platform for Mac computers and iOS devices, rebranding a few categories and adding new features. But while most users may not notice these subtle changes, it's possible that these moves are in fact a precursor to a larger, more wholesale redesign of the App Stores.
Apple announced on Monday that its iOS App Store, which is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, has sold more than 25 billion apps, and the winner of the App Store Countdown to 25 Billion Apps is Chunli Fu of Qingdao, China.
The 25 billionth app downloaded was the free version of Disney's water-based physics game, "Where's My Water?" As a result, Chunli Fu has won a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card from Apple.
"We'd like to thank our customers and developers for helping us achieve this historic milestone of 25 billion apps downloaded," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior VP of Internet Software and Services. "When we launched the App Store less than four years ago, we never imagined that mobile apps would become the phenomenon they have, or that developers would create such an incredible selection of apps for iOS users."
Since launching in 2008 -- one year after the first iPhone -- the App Store has revolutionized the way users enjoy mobile content, by creating a vast ecosystem of countless cheap, downloadable applications and allowing users to purchase them to create massive libraries of useful apps. Apple currently boasts more than 550,000 iPhone apps and 170,000 iPad apps, which can be downloaded in 123 countries around the world. Apps range across several categories, including games, news, sports, travel, business, health and fitness, entertainment, and more.
Yet, despite the App Store's overwhelming success, the platform is far from perfect. Apple's App Store is bolstered by waves of third-party developers, but its immense scale is a double-edged sword. After browsing through categorized and featuring apps, how does one discover new apps to enjoy?
Apple has a solution, but it needs some outside help. That's why Apple bought Chomp, an app search and discovery platform. The news was first reported by MG Siegler of TechCrunch fame, and later confirmed by Apple.Bloomberg Businessweek believes the deal was worth about $50 million.
"We buy smaller technology companies from time to time and generally don't comment on our purposes or plans," an Apple spokeswoman told Bloomberg.
Apple doesn't need to explain how it plans to use Chomp; the latest news solidifies rumors that Apple was ready to overhaul its iTunes and App Store platforms for the first time in about three years.
"The new design is said to be even simpler and more user-friendly than the current design," said Mark Gurman, who originally reported the story on 9 to 5 Mac. "Apple is working on ways to enhance the speed and efficiency of finding new content, such as songs, videos, and applications. The cornerstone element of Apple's new iTunes Store is interactivity. As Apple vaguely explained to a number of music labels and entertainment partners, Apple is looking to make the iTunes Store a much more engaging experience."
Chomp offers a variety of ways to discover great apps for the iPhone, iPad, and all Android devices, too. The site features pages for new apps, trending apps, apps on sale, and free apps of the day. Chomp also provides pages for the apps considered "All-Time Greats," as well as those apps trending heavily on Twitter. At the bottom of the page, Chomp also suggests popular app searches for categories users may not know about, such as voice recording apps, or guitar apps, or system utilities apps.
With the acquisition of Chomp -- not just its technology, but its entire 20-person team -- Apple hopes to turn around its App Store and revamp its system for search and recommendations. Of course, Apple has the money to pull off such a feat; the company announced its best quarter in its 35-year history on Jan. 24, with net income of $13.1 billion on revenue of $46.3 billion. The company reported holdings of $100 billion in cash.
But when can we expect these revamped iTunes and App Stores to debut? With Apple expected to hold a big product event on March 7, there's a good chance fans could witness the unveiling of a new iPad, a new version of iTunes and the App Store, and possibly even a Microsoft Office app for the iPad, all at one event.
This article is copyrighted by International Business Times, the business news leader