The phenomenon of application stores.

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 by Giuseppe Piersantelli

Apple iTunes App Store’s huge success is encouraging many players to launch similiar initiatives with the gola to distribute and sell mobile applicationsfor devices running operating systems like Windows Mobile or Blackberry.

These small softwares, which often satisfy the needs of a niche of users (according to the Long Tail principle), are usually developed by independent third parties. The initiative owner certify and distribute the applications in a trusted environment.

The following chart, elaborated by Future Centre, summarizes the main mobile application stores currently available or close to the launch.

So far, iTunes App Store is still the more consolidated and popular marketplace for mobile applications but some more players are emerging.

Blackberry has unveiled its App World. The promotional video is quite interesting.

Nokia Ovi Store: the Scandinavian giant adds the application marketplace to the popular suite Ovi. Reportedly, 20.000 applications will be delivered.
Android Market delivers a complete set of software for mobile devices: an operating system, middleware and key mobile applications. The Android Software Development Kit (SDK) is also available.

Windows Marketplace seems alive and kicking: applications are available for Windows Mobile OS.

But what can I do if I own a J2ME phone and I want some fancy applications without buying a brand new  Blackberry? No problem: Sun Microsystems is planning to launch its application store dedicated to the 2.1 billion Java based phones in the world. “Candidate applications will be submitted via a simple web site, evaluated by Sun for safety and content, then presented under free or fee terms to the broad Java audience via our update mechanism. Over time, developers will bid for position on our storefront, and the relationships won’t be exclusive (as they have been for search),” said Sun CEO.

Also the global mobile carrier Vodafone decided to invest some R&D resource in  Betavine, “an open community and mobile development resource hub”. Differently from the other stores, which are dedicated to a particular operating system, Betavine delivers applications for all the existing mobile platforms.

The following chart, elaborated by VisionMobile Research, is a comparison table of application stores including BREW, Handango, GetJar and Download.

It looks like the business of distributing applications for an increasing number of open and/or flexible mobile platform is attracting a huge number of players with different role in the mobile services ecosystems: alliances, developers, operators.

Apple teaches that large corporations like Microsoft or Vodafone are too slow to develop small, niche applications, but the business is profitable: so the right approach is being a trusted aggregator which distributes (and sells)  applications developed bysmall, flexible, cost efficient independents firms or even individuals.

The big corporations take their part to aggregate and distribute the software. The independent developers have hige stores to sell their softwares. The end users are finally able to find their favourite, freshly developed gadgets for their mobile phones.

Is it really a win-win game?

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