A consortium of mobile operators, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, NTT DoCoMo, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile and Vodafone, have announced an agreement to create a unified mobile application store. This is of course a direct attempt by the providers to muscle away some of the power Apple now exerts on the mobile market and place it back in the hands of their other smartphones. A lot of phones are languishing not only because they don’t have the engineering and design of the iPhone but also because they don’t have the range of custom applications. What these competitors don’t realize though is that throwing some custom applications at their phones isn’t going to cure the malaise they currently feel.
Application Stores are to mobile phones what social network web sites are to the internet; everybody has one these days but only a minority of them are good. The strengths of the iPhone App Store are threefold. One, Apple was the first to have one. They created the notion of small, highly specialized applications easily accessible for little or no money. The mind share captured by being the first in line is unmeasurable. Everyone else that opens one seems to simply be tapping into a “me too” mentality that causes people to largely discount them.
Second, the App Store is backed up by quality, well engineered hardware. The implication of an application store unified among all of these providers is that they’ll try to create one that fits all their phones; some good, some bad. The iPhone is a single, quality platform that gives developers a single line of expectation to develop from. Can you imagine trying to create an application that has to support 20 different platforms?
Lastly, for better or worse, the iPhone App Store is run by a single entity with complete control over the process. Will all of these providers acquiesce to a single authority for any approvals process? What happens when one company decides they like something and another doesn’t? People may gripe about Apple’s tight grip on the App Store but it’s that tight grip that keeps things moving. There is no death by committee attitude at Apple.
It will be interesting to see how this new initiative fairs in the next 12 months. Will it flourish through cooperation or languish because of recrimination? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
By: Erin Peterson