Raymond James’ analysts Tavis C. McCourt and Daniel Toomey in their recent report have a ‘Strong Buy’ rating on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock.

This morning Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced that customers spent more than $10 billion on its App Store in 2013. Apple also announced that it has paid developers $15 billion since the app store launch, which indicates $7 billion in 2013 alone. As the chart below shows, Apple’s payment to developers not only grew ~75% y/y in 2013, but actually accelerated in terms of growth the last several years.

Apple App store developer revenue

As shown above, analysts have tracked developer payouts from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s App Store since launch as a measure of the health of the iOS ecosystem. Interestingly, not only was 2013 a strong year for developer payouts in the App Store, y/y growth of 75% actually accelerated vs. 60% in 2012.

Apple is an ecosystem company

Analysts view Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) as an ecosystem company that happens to monetize this ecosystem primarily through device sales as one cannot enter the ecosystem without purchasing hardware. Although this monetization mechanism can lead to choppy results, as they witnessed in 2013, as a single data point, an acceleration in developer payouts on the App Store is very bullish for the long-term growth and sustainability of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s profit stream.

iOS user base likely to grow

Analysts hesitate to draw any near-term conclusions on results based on App Store data, but in the long term, they view this ecosystem data as more relevant than near-term financials in measuring shareholder value creation. What this data continues to suggest is the iOS user base is likely to be growing significantly and usage per subscriber is likely increasing meaningfully as well.