David Pogue doles out the fourth annual "Pogie Awards" for the best ideas in consumer electronics (no trophy, but Pogue's imprimatur is likely worth its weight in holiday sales). Coming in at the top of his list is . . . the cellphone App store!

"What a concept," says Pogue, "An online software catalog, stocked with thousands of wildly creative, visually stunning, free or cheap new programs that download directly to your phone, no computer needed." It didn't take long after Apple opened its iPhone App Store in July for the concept to go viral. Google launched the Android Market in October, the Palm App Store opened this week, and the BlackBerry Store is slated for March. Steve Jobs' claim that the iPhone App store could soon be a $1 billion marketplace certainly didn't hurt.

Pogue is spot on, as usual, in citing the App Store as the tipping point in turning smartphones into the pocket laptops we were always promised--"a stamp of individuality, an indispensable companion. It becomes the reason you buy one of these machines in the first place." But we think its winning formula isn't just on the consumer-facing side.

By opening up its software-development-kit for developers to build apps native to the iPhone, Apple was able to generate interest from an army of developers eager to find ingenious and insipid uses for the 3G's multi-touch interface, GPS, accelerometer, and real-time 3-D graphics. Hello, free content providers, welcome to our niche market. (Apple's restrictive NDAs, however, which ban developers from sharing tips or discussing code or programming in forums, blogs, or over email ended up stoking the ire of that same community.)

In our November issue, I took a quick look at some intriguing start-ups vying for piece of the iPhone App Store's $1 billion. Keep an eye out for a handy chart comparing the iPhone 3G, the Storm, and the T-Mobile's G1—from a busy entrepreneur's point-of-view, naturally—in our January/February double issue. Consider it a belated Christmas present.