Mobile applications downloaded from online stores will be a $58 billion worldwide business by 2014, as tablet computers such as Apple's iPad stoke the surging market, a new study said on Monday.
The figure marks a huge increase on the $5.2 billion spent on mobile applications in 2010, technology consultancy Gartner said, predicting there will be 17.7 billion application downloads this year, more than double the 8.2 billion in 2010.
By the end of 2014, Gartner forecasted that over 185 billion applications will have been downloaded since 2008.
Gartner added that while the average number of downloads to mobile phones will remain stable, "it must be assumed that media tablets will drive more downloads from consumers, boosting the overall average downloads per device."
Mobile application revenue was generated both by fees paid for the downloads and developers' advertising revenue, it said.
The soaring growth in the market was partly driven by new alternatives to Apple's well-known App Store, with Nokia and Blackberry maker Research in Motion among those unveiling competing offerings.
Free downloads are forecast to account for 81 percent of total mobile application store downloads in 2011, Gartner said, adding that paid for applications will rise as people "become more trusting of billing mechanisms."