Apple has won ABI Research’s Competitive Assessment of mobile application storefronts, with Google finishing second and Microsoft third. In the assessment, the leading app distributors were ranked by two dimensions: implementation and innovation.

In terms of implementation, Apple came first, ahead of Google and RIM. The company’s superior performance in this dimension is mainly down to its effective approach to monetization, large market share over the app industry, and the ability to achieve a large inventory of titles while maintaining a reasonably strict quality control.

However, in the innovation dimension Apple is narrowly beaten by Microsoft, with Google claiming the third spot. ABI Research is particularly impressed by Microsoft’s fresh approach to app discovery, as well as Windows Phone store’s overall solid usability. Discovery is an area that has been given significant importance, because when a customer arrives at an app storefront much of the following download activity is based on how the vendor presents and highlights its inventory, especially through various charts.

Senior analyst Aapo Markkanen commented in the press release, “Although Apple has done a great job capitalizing on App Store’s head start as an app distributor, it should really start re-thinking the way it charts the top apps. Microsoft should be lauded for its initiative to extend its ranking algorithm beyond raw download figures, by including factors that can actually measure the customer satisfaction and retention. Retention-based charts are less prone to manipulation, so as an additional plus Microsoft can also afford being more transparent about its approach. Moves like this can help break the developers free from the ‘tyranny of downloads’, decrease their reliance on costly marketing campaigns, and thus lower the barriers to entry.”

These findings are from ABI Research’s Mobile Application Markets Research Service, which focuses on the distribution and the economics of mobile apps, providing data-driven insights on areas such as download volumes, revenues and business models, plus trends within different applications categories.

Source: ABI Research

MacDailyNews Take: It’s easy to win in “app discovery” when you have far, far, far fewer apps to deal with and present.

That said, Apple should continue working hard to improve the App Store’s app discovery algorithm(s) and presentation(s).