Since launching on iOS devices in 2008, the App Store has become a huge success, enabling users to spend countless hours browsing its virtual shelves for games, books, news apps, health and fitness ideas, navigational aids, lifestyle suggestions….the list goes on. Countless software companies have sprung up along the way, creating a whole new industry and enabling anyone with an original idea to grab a piece of the app pie.

Less than four years down the road, Apple’s App Store is about to see its 25 billionth download. To celebrate the milestone, the Cupertino-based company is offering a $10,000 gift card redeemable in the iTunes Store, App Store and iBook Store.

On a countdown page, Apple says, “Download the 25 billionth app and you could win a US$10,000 App Store Gift Card.” All well and good, but look a little closer and you discover that actually anyone can enter, downloader or not.

That’s right, to have a chance of picking up the gift card, you don’t actually have to buy or download an app, but you will have to hand over some personal information to Apple, including your name, address, birth date, phone number and email address. A maximum of 25 entries per person per day is allowed.

“The prize will be awarded for the entry (either through an app download or through the non-purchase online entry) sent immediately following the download of the 24,999,999,999th app,” the rules explain.

“The potential winner will be determined by the order of the entries received.“ In other words, if you do enter using the online form, you’ll need to do it around the time the app counter hits 25 billion, which is expected to happen in the next couple of days. Oh, and the counter is “for illustrative purposes only” so you needn’t sit staring at it for the next three days waiting for it to reach the magic number.

A UK woman bagged a $10,000 App Store gift card in January last year after downloading the 10 billionth app, which was, for the curious among you, the free Paper Glider game.

In the period between January 2010 and January 2011, Apple said seven billion apps had been downloaded. Since then, another 15 billion apps have found their way onto iOS devices. At this rate, we can expect the 50 billionth download well before year end.

[Bottom image: iQoncept / Shutterstock]