Another vote in favor of apps as the main way for anyone to hope to make money out of mobile content: the analysts at Canalys project that mobile apps will make $7.3 billion in direct revenues this year from downloads, in-app payments and subscriptions. That figure is set to nearly double by 2012 to $14.1 billion.
What Canalys analysts does not do is break out how much of that will come from each individual category: we’ve contacted them to see if they can clarify that.
Nor do they factor in revenues from furniture in the apps, namely advertising, or the possibly less-easy-to-quantify area of driving purchases offline, such as in the case of coupons. Ouriel Ohayon, the CEO and co-founder of app discovery platform Appsfire, tells mocoNews that he believes adding in these kinds of services would double the estimates.
Canalys analysts further predict that direct revenues from apps will reach $36.7 billion by 2015, which works out to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 50 percent.
What’s interesting — and perhaps due to the fact that operators are one of their mainstays as customers — is that Canalys believes that the big opportunity for revenues here lies not with the usual suspects of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Nokia (NYSE: NOK) or even Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), but mobile operators.
Mobile operators have up to now largely missed out on the app opportunity, but are sure as hell trying to turn that around with app stores of their own and also initiatives to use their platforms for services in third-party app storefronts, for example by enabling billing directly to a user’s mobile phone bill.
Yet if you take Canalys’ overall number of smartphones and tablets in 2011 — 463.3 million, comprised of 419 million smartphones and 43.3 million tablets (which Canalys calls ‘pads’ in its emailed release, a hat tip to Apple more or less dominating that market) — this works out to revenues of around $15.80 per device per year. That’s not very much, considering that mobile operators are making well upwards of $50 or more per user, per month on a typical smartphone contract.
And of course you have to remember that apps revenues are hugely disproportionate, with some like Rovio bringing in millions in revenues and others struggling to break even on development costs.
It’s an opportunity for sure, but perhaps one that might be great for another player (or hey! maybe even the publishers themselves) to emerge and benefit from.