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It’s good to be Apple. This is true in many ways, but especially in the mobile applications business. According to research firm Gartner, nine out of ten downloaded mobile applications in 2010 came from Apple’s App Store.

Last year was a booming year for mobile apps. Mobile apps hit globally 8.2 billion downloads and $5.2 billion in revenue, but 2011 will blow those numbers out of the water, as Gartner predicts that worldwide mobile app revenue will triple this year, reaching $15.1 billion in 2011 with 17.7 billion downloads. By 2014, Gartner estimates over 185 billion applications will have been downloaded from mobile app stores worldwide.

The staggering numbers are further proof that apps are an integral part of the mobile infrastructure and user experience, not just business. Like Gartner’s research director Stephanie Baghdassarian said in the release: “Many are wondering if the app frenzy we have been witnessing is just a fashion, and, like many others, it shall pass. We do not think so.”

For the moment, Apple, which celebrated 10 billion downloads from its App Store last week, is far ahead of its rivals, like Google‘s Android Market, Windows Marketplace, Nokia‘s Ovi Store, Blackberry App World and GetJar. According to Gartner, Apple will remain the best-selling store at least until 2014, but its slice of the pie will diminish as the other app stores pick up in speed. In fact, Gartner says that this year’s surge in revenue will mostly be powered by the growing popularity of Google’s Android Market with both consumers and developers.

As much as the numbers indicate a booming mobile app market, it seems that there is still room for more growth when it comes to making a buck: Gartner said that out of the 17.7 downloaded apps this year, 81 percent will be free downloads. The percentage of free downloads is expected to decrease, though, and Gartner believes users will pay for more applications when two things are in place: one, people see added value in mobile ads; and two, people become more trustful of mobile app billing mechanisms.

In the meantime, advertising is growing, too. In 2010, mobile ads accounted for 16 percent of the $5.2 billion revenue in app stores worldwide, a share that Gartner expects will reach 30 percent in 2014.

Calling all developers: We want to write up your app for VentureBeat’s Mobile AppSpotlight! If you have an innovative mobile app that hasn’t been featured on VentureBeat yet, submit it for consideration right away. The Mobile App Spotlight is sponsored by The Intel AppUp developer program.

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