It seems that every company that has anything to do with mobile is launching an app store, and why not? It has been reported this week that analysts at Sanford Bernstein put a value on the Apple App Store that would make many CEOs smile, even in this economy. The Apple App Store has been, by Sanford Bernstein estimates, netting about $150 million per year from the 30 percent that Apple charges the developers for bandwidth and other fees.
That’s a lot of money considering that Apple isn’t actually developing most of those apps. So it is no wonder that Microsoft, RIM, Google, Nokia, LG (at least in Asia this year) are all launching app stores. But where there is money to be made, there is going to be some problems including fierce competition that can get in the way of normal business cooperation.
Later this month Verizon Wireless will launch its own app store, which should sound like good news. The company has stressed that it will let developers build apps for whatever platform or handset they choose. Verizon Wireless has also stated that the company will focus on compiling apps from four main developer communities this year, including Windows Mobile, Palm, Android and Blackberry. So far little has been discussed about the iPhone, but that’s a worry for next year. The Verizon Wireless app store should be up by the end of the year.
So far so good, but what Verizon Wireless customers won’t have the option to use out of the box is access to App World for BlackBerry, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, or the Android Marketplace. In fact, none of the vendors’ own application storefronts will be accessible. Users won’t be tied to the Verizon Wireless app store of course, but they’ll have to download the appropriate third party app store instead.
OK, maybe this is a minor headache. But for many users this is still an extra step, and for those new to smartphones, this can be an extra hassle as well as one of those “I didn’t know you could do that moments.” It also seems like bad business considering that the Department of Justice is looking over Verizon Wireless’s shoulders right now. As I’ve reported, several carriers are being investigated for unfair business practices for having exclusive handset deals. And while this might not seem tied to that, is this really a smart move for Verizon Wireless?
On the flip side, carrier app stores could also become a thing of the future. While many users upgrade and replace handsets on a regular basis, a large segment of these users stick with their carrier. So if you change phone models, and possibly operating systems, the retail app experience will remain the same if you’re used to going to Verizon’s app store.
Older Phones Not Locked Out of Microsoft Apps Store
In other app store news, the word today is Microsoft would announce it will be accepting apps for its Windows Marketplace for Mobile beginning on July 27. However, the company has made it clear that not all existing apps will be available at the store. While some 20,000 apps are available, the store will only include those that have been tested and offer guarantees with a money-back offer. The rumor is that the number of apps actually available on July 27 could be as small as 600, but is expected to grow quickly.
In an interesting twist, Microsoft is likely to confirm that the app store will include apps for Windows Mobile versions 6.0 and 6.1, which is contrary to previous indications that the store would only run on, and support apps for Windows Mobile 6.5. Given that Windows Mobile 6.5 won’t be around long, with 7.0 in the wings, it is not that surprising that Microsoft will look to keep the older customers happy and get them to experience the store while they wait for the next big thing in Windows Mobile.