Apple has bought Chomp, a leading app discovery search engine, and they did it out of necessity but not quite for the reason that one would think.
One reason seems straight forward – the focus on the consumer finding mobile applications in the AppStore. With the incredible number of applications up there, findability is key for consumers looking for alternatives to Angry Birds. Face it, finding anything beyond the top 100 apps in the AppStore is a long and painful process that requires a certain amount of dedication and time – which goes against the usage pattern of “quick hit” mobile engagement. Are people really hunting, searching and comparing mobile apps or are we just jumping in the AppStore when we can and downloading what is in front of us.
This would seem to be the right reason given the latest results from Amazon’s Android app store – something that Apple has to see as a threat. Amazon gets retail as much as Apple does. I’m not so sure Apple, or Amazon, are afraid of Google’s retail prowess as they have proven over and over again that they aren’t in the same league as either of these two experts. They certainly aren’t afraid of RIM and nor should they be at this point.
However, my feeling is that the real reason for the Chomp acquisition is the impact it could have on developers – more specifically developer’s bank accounts. Getting and keeping the focus of the developers – in essence maintaining the “we perfect the iPhone experience first and then the rest” mantra we’ve heard since the AppStore launched. This industry is also being influenced by the cross platform development environments that are growing in numbers. The key to any platform’s success is to get developers to create deep native experiences rather than just using the features available in the cross platform environments.
It’s no secret that developers will flock to the platform that generates the most amount of revenue for them. In mobile, revenue can be in the form or real dollars or distribution and reach – both of which seem to be suffering from a decline in mindshare for Apple. Bringing on an outside viewpoint for app discovery in Chomp, Apple is finally getting serious about the elephant in the app industry: Discoverability.
Discoverability is the biggest challenge for most developers -we’ve all seen great products being produced and abandoned because the noise is so deafening in the space that the good products can’t surface.
By acquiring Chomp for the $50 million reported, Apple is committing to helping the un-featured long-tail of the app ecosystem that makes up the bottom 99% of the apps found in their AppStore. The simple fact is that developer tools and programs are not enough any more. A much larger part of the platform decision is how much that platform will help push the product into buyers hands.
**I interviewed Ben Keighran in October 2010 about Chomp: 50 Million app reviews and counting: How Chomp.com is highlighting the long tail of mobile applications through their discovery engine – with Founder & CEO, Ben Keighran