The Android world is abuzz today with news that Verizon is going to open a VCAST app store for phones that run Android 2.2. We first covered this news over a year ago, when Verizon told us they were going to open the store for not just Android, but for BlackBerry, Palm and Windows Mobile handsets, too. At that point, the store was to open by the end of last year, so the real story is: The Verizon app store is late.
Verizon has operated a VCAST “aisle” in the Android Market since launching the Motorola Droid a year ago. This “store within a store” appears on a tab in the Market, and contains all of Verizon’s own VCAST apps along with other apps the carrier deems worth promoting. The app store currently in the news is a different venture, as it’s completely independent from the Android Market, and Verizon has recently implemented a submission process for developers wanting to participate. Verizon brings a 70/30 revenue split to developers, along with carrier billing, which is appealing to developers in a highly competitive segment.
While it may appear that the Verizon VCAST store will be competing with Google’s Android Market, that depends on a couple of things. If developers can submit apps to the Verizon store without exclusivity, nothing prevents them from also having them in the Android Market. This makes the carrier’s store no risk for them, so developers would likely place their apps in both stores.
A potentially bigger issue affecting the Verizon store and its competition with the Android Market is whether Verizon will allow the Market to be installed on handsets on its network. We’ve seen other carriers block access to outside apps on handsets, so this isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Verizon did indicate in our earlier interview that outside app stores would not be installed on its handsets by default, but that consumers could download them. This isn’t the optimum case for Google, as many consumers won’t realize there is an alternative market available to them. It’s better than outright blocking access to the Android Market, however.
Verizon’s developer conference takes place this month in Las Vegas, and there should be additional information disclosed about the Android VCAST store. The two-day conference will cover all of Verizon’s programs for developers on all platforms, and perhaps we’ll get a date for the launch of the VCAST store on Android. These types of carrier-specific deals may be the wave of the future; perhaps we’ll hear more about them at our Mobilize conference this month.
Related research from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): The App Developer’s Guide to Choosing a Mobile Platform