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Summary:

PocketGear today acquired Handango, which was founded in 1999 and became a pioneer distributor of smartphone apps. The pick-up underscores just how dramatically the space has evolved in the last few years thanks to the emergence of Apple’s App Store and other distributors.

Handango, one of the original mobile app distributors, has been acquired by PocketGear in a deal announced this morning, the terms of which were not disclosed. An 11-year-old Dallas-area firm, Handango — like its rival Handmark — helped pioneer the app store model by distributing apps to devices running Palm, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Symbian before expanding to Android. PocketGear in 2008 was founded as a spinoff from Motricity, which is now hoping to raise $250 million through an initial public offering.

The combined company hopes to better compete with Apple’s App Store and the Android Market as well as content aggregators such as GetJar, which delivers titles to a wide variety of devices. But the move also scores how dramatically the mobile app space has evolved in the last few years thanks to Apple and its rivals, which have made it much make it easier for consumers to find and download mobile apps. Early players like Handmark gained traction among some tech-savvy smartphone users, but because their storefronts were never embedded on devices most users were blind to them. And users who were aware of them had to create standalone credit card accounts and jump through other hoops to download apps to their handsets, which often weren’t great at running apps anyway.

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Image courtesy Flickr user Finnur.

By Colin Gibbs

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  2. This is quite an interesting development and shows that independent app stores also have their place under the sun. However, I am surprised that the storefront design is still rooted in the early 2000’s with almost similar kind of standard shopping cart feel and hardly any trial/demo capabilities.

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  3. Someone actually paid real, actual money for Handango? I’m surprised they haven’t folded completely given how totally craptastic their web site is. It reminds me of the Geocities days.

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  4. There is a lot going on in the mobile application space, particularly around how the apps get to the end consumers. Appboy (http://www.appboy.com) is another company that is looking at how to efficiently get applications into the hands of users and to promote developers work.

    It seems that more and more, applications and developers are trying to work across platforms, while iPhone apps can only be sold through the apple store, the other platforms are much more open. It will be interesting to see whether that will have an impact on the number of developers that eventually migrate away from iPhone as their primary focus and onto other options where they can be more in control of their own product. As the phones become more comparable in features and abilities, I think this is likely to start happening.

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  5. anyone know how much PG paid for Hg?
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    a year after Hg laid off 40% of their people, i do not think PG paid that much for it.
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    Also, ironic for Alex Bloom, the CEO of handango. he used work for Pocketgear.
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