A new market analysis by tracking firm Canalys predicts total revenue from mobile phone and tablet app sales, in-app purchases and subscriptions -- including games -- will reach $36.7 billion by 2015.
The number, found in Canalys' Mobile App Store Analysis forecast for June, would represent an average annual growth rate of just under 50 percent from an estimated app market size of $7.3 billion this year. The growth will be somewhat front-loaded, according to the analysis, with a 92 percent jump to $14.1 billion in 2012.
Canalys sees this explosive growth as a motivation for mobile network operators to offer their own branded app stores to compete with those operated by hardware vendors, focusing on curated app selection and promotion to set themselves apart.
"The leading stores already have hundreds of thousands of apps, so it's hard for operators to compete with those numbers," Canalys Analyst Tim Shepherd said in a statement. "On the other hand, too much choice brings serious problems in terms of application discovery for both developers and users, which operators can turn to their advantage."
Shepherd went on to say that network operators could use detailed subscriber data to provide targeted app recommendations, and could improve on standard app stores by offering "editorial guidance, better localization, improved security and simpler billing processes."