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Summary:

Starting this fall, T-Mobile USA will take the extraordinary step of ditching its traditional deck on the phone and replacing it with a plat…

imageStarting this fall, T-Mobile USA will take the extraordinary step of ditching its traditional deck on the phone and replacing it with a platform that’s open to almost any developer, multiple sources have told us. Think of *Apple’s* App store, but for the entire carrier’s handset line-up from smartphone to feature phone. As one developer, who was briefed on the matter, said: “The App store was a big deal, but that’s one phone. This is an entire carrier.” In other words, we are talking about T-Mobile’s 31.5 million subscribers today vs. the 10 million iPhones Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) expects to sell by year-end (granted, the iPhone users tend to be more engaged as early adopters). The impact of this move by T-Mobile could set off a wave of changes in the industry, as other carriers feel pressure to offer new applications on their networks. Clearly, for this to happen, T-Mobile will have to follow through on its promises to encourage developers to participate. We are waiting for a statement from T-Mobile and will update when we have it.

Here’s the details: Developers will submit their applications online; the revenue-share agreement will be based on how much the application uses the network; and the applications will be presented to the user in order of popularity, not according to T-Mobile’s preferences. It’s all pretty straightforward, but the more interesting aspect is that this will apply to all the carrier’s platforms from upcoming Android to Java to Sidekick and Windows Mobile. And, when it comes to revenues, it will be almost as easy as Apple’s 30-70 split. T-Mobile will take a percentage of revenues based on bandwidth, so if it’s a streaming video application, it will take more. Still, one developer called the baseline “very generous.” Right now, there’s not many details on the certification process, which will be the most important aspect. If developers have to jump through a lot of hoops, the system won’t be truly open. It’s also unclear how free apps will be handled (for instance, Apple doesn’t take a cut in that circumstance).

Lots more after the jump

Stacking up to the competition: Over the last year, AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) have said they are committed to being open, but has done little to back it up. At the same time, T-Mobile has been quietly been building up infrastructure of its own, starting with a Web site launched here. It also recently partnered with Device Anywhere, which allows developers to rent lab time to test applications on the T-Mobile network. And, it alludes on the site to upcoming changes. It says in addition to submitting applications through an aggregator or directly to a T-Mobile manager, it says: “In the coming weeks, T-Mobile will be offering new ways to go to market.” It also gets credit for being one of the first carriers to join Google’s (NSDQ: GOOG) Open Handset Alliance to support the Android operating system, which is also expected to give developers a more direct path to subscribers. T-Mobile is expected to launch an Android handset this year.

T-Mobile needs a gimmick: As the fourth largest carrier, T-Mobile’s continued to add subscribers year-on-year, but is behind in launching 3G and is losing subscribers to AT&T as people flock to the iPhone. The weakness is starting to show. In Q2, T-Mobile USA added 668,000 net subscribers, a 22.1 percent drop from the 857,000 added a year ago, which at the time was described as low.

Updated T-Mobile declined to comment on specifics, but issued this statement from Venetia Espinoza, T-Mobile’s director of Mobile Applications and Partner Programs: “T-Mobile is working with the industry to foster an open wireless services platform which will provide developers with the tools and information they need to make new, innovative experiences available to T-Mobile

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  1. if they can succesfully do this for Sidekick, this could be awesome. rest of their phones are blah.

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  2. Yah this will work great for Tmobile. I can't wait for my new app: bigtitsandmore application to be slapped across all tmobile phones, and make it in the news.

    Good work Tmobile, you were dumb before, now you're going to be a dumb pipe!

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  3. Good news. There're so many good apps for mobile phones out there and very few distribution channels..

    Looking forward to see that kind of service be available on T-mobile BlackBerries.

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  4. Not a smart move- this is a great way to squash the little guy. Lots and lots of crap means people that work hard to make a good game or application get lost in the sea of garbage.
    Besides, T-Mobile hasnt been able to get anything else related to games or application right before

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  5. RE: Concerned – How can an open app store that sorts by popularity by a dumb move in respect to small time developers? If they create an awesome app I would imagine they will attract a ton of interest. What would be the alternative… not having a closed app store that only allows t-mobile partner's apps?

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  6. I meant to say "what would be the alternative… having a closed app store that only allows t-mobile partner's apps?"

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  7. Um. Danger, the company that makes the OS for the Sidekick/hiptop already has something like this in place and has had it since… forever. Can you guys expand on what the change is going to be there?

    Except indie developer incentives/support really sucks.

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  8. This is junk. The mobile phone industry doesn't have a consistent platform. T-Mobile's concept is good, but currently there are dozens of platforms with hundreds of variations. It is similar to the state of PC operating systems during the 1970s.

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  9. One disadvantage I see for T-Mobile is the lack of a common platform across their handsets. The App Store caries apps for just one kind of phone, adding to its simplicity. It will be tough to replicate the UX when not all apps work on all devices.

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  10. RE: rd I have learned that what is popular and what is good aren't always the same thing. I would say maybe put a filter in place so things don't get flooded like the iphone application store is now. I would think that up until now T-Mobile has been that filter?

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