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How iPod Touch will help Apple win new platform war

I got an iPod Touch for Christmas. And not any iPod Touch, mind you, but the 32GB model.

After playing with it for several days now, I've finally experienced first-hand the huge leap this device (along with its more advanced cousin, the iPhone) represents over any previous iPod.

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With Wi-Fi available both at home and at work, the Touch truly is a computer in my pocket, giving me the ability to check e-mail, the weather, and the stock market as well as browse the Web.

But that's nothing compared to the game-changing power of the iTunes App Store. Although I have noted often in this blog that Apple's aim is to create a new platform with the iPod Touch and iPhone, I still was wowed by the variety, utility, ingenuity and polish of the apps available.

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And it's oh-so-dangerous to your wallet. With predominantly low prices – many apps go for as little as 99 cents -- and purchasing as easy as a mouse-click, you can quickly find yourself scooping up apps like so many holiday M&Ms.

Like the iPod/iTunes ecosystem before it, the iPhone/iPod Touch/App Store ecosystem will grow into a monster that will leave competitors eating Apple's dust for years. Yes, I know Research in Motion plans to launch a BlackBerry Application Store in March and Google's Android Market opened a few months ago.

But this is Apple's strength. It will emerge as the leader in the new "pocket pc" platform race because it knows how to build and perfect an integrated ecosystem better than anyone else.

As with the Mac and iTunes/iPod ecosystems, Apple controls all the elements in the iPhone-iPod Touch/App Store universe, giving it an advantage in avoiding incompatibilities and other user-offending glitches.

The contribution of the iPod Touch can't be overestimated. The Touch brings in millions of customers Apple's phone-making competitors can't reach – people like myself who want many of the capabilities of a smartphone without the steep monthly fees. (My cheap, pay-as-you-go T-Mobile phone suits me fine for my limited cell phone needs.)

Already the iPhone/iPod Touch ecosystem shows signs of explosive growth, with Apple reporting more than 300 million downloads since the App Store's inception in July. That's an astounding feat for an entity less than five months old.

I can attest to the lure of the App Store. In less than a week I've downloaded 10 apps myself.

According to a story in today's Washington Post, iPhone/iPod Touch app developers are making more money than they dreamed possible. Long-time Mac developer Brian Greenstone of Pangea Software told the Post the new platform would generate $5 million for him this year.

The holiday shopping season added more momentum, with various models of first and second-generation iPod Touches consistently among the top-selling electronic devices at Amazon.

All those new Touch owners now join the 5 million-plus new iPhone owners as well as the millions of people who already had bought one of the devices. The race to establish the dominant mobile computing platform may be over before it started.

I'll have more thoughts on the iPod Touch as I continue to play with it. Which reminds me … it should be fully recharged by now.

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