In 1963, McDonald’s reached a significant milestone that it would go on to proudly promote: 1bn hamburgers served. The milestone was achieved a mere 23 years after Dick and Mac McDonald opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in California.

But in the internet age, 23 years is an eternity. Just ask Apple. It announced yesterday that it had hit an impressive milestone of its own: more than 1.5bn apps downloaded in the App Store’s first full year.

Obviously, hamburgers and downloads are two very different things but that doesn’t diminish Apple’s achievement. In just a year’s time, Apple has created an ecosystem that any technology company would envy:

  • 1.5bn apps downloaded from the App Store.
  • 65,000+ apps developed.
  • 100,000 developers signed up for the iPhone Developer Program.

Steve Jobs stated the obvious:

The App Store is like nothing the industry has ever seen before in both scale
and quality. With 1.5 billion apps downloaded, it is going to be very hard for others to
catch up.

He’s probably right.

The Palm Pre? It won a lot of acclaim but it’s nowhere near the iPhone when it comes to consumer demand, it clearly faces about as big a challenge as could be imagined. Sales of the phone may already be slowing and despite an attractive app store of its own, the respectable 1m app download mark that was hit just 18 days after the Pre’s launch pales in comparison to Apple’s numbers. Nokia? I haven’t heard anything about the Ovi Store since its shaky launch. RIM and Microsoft? They’ve got a long way to go too.

Right now, the game is Apple’s to lose. And it could lose it. Developers aren’t without complaints and most of them aren’t making big bucks. But so long as Apple is the McDonald’s of mobile apps, developers will go where the meat is.

Photo credit: Daquella manera via Flickr.