Australian carrier Telstra says it will open a mobile application store much like Apple’s App Store, joining the frenzy surrounding such mobile app marketplaces (Microsoft, Research in Motion and Nokia all have stores in the works as well). What’s noteworthy is that Telstra is a carrier, so its app store could become the mobile equivalent of a mall, bringing together various handset or OS-specific app stores under one “roof.”
Both IBM and Amdocs have launched software that would allow carriers to build their own sponsored app stores. Depending on the terms, this could be a change in policies at many carriers, which have in the past tried to govern application use on their networks and devices. In the process they’ve asked for such large chunks of the revenue and made the application approval process so difficult that most developers found some other way to get consumers to download their apps — perhaps through their own sites or third-party marketplaces like Handango.
Gil Rosen, V-P of strategic initiatives and customer experience with Amdocs, says that carriers are changing their tune after seeing the success of the Apple App Store (and likely fearing the relegation to dumb pipe status). As a result, he thinks the carriers will snap up the opportunity to build their own stores (hopefully on the Amdoc platform).
“We’re providing a chance for the service provider to recapture their place in the value chain, and allowing them to engage customers directly and use other players in the market as secondary service providers,” Rosen says.
Rosen thinks carriers are willing to share the revenue a bit more freely than in the past, but emphasizes that carriers also bring a direct relationship with customers to the app store. If a customer stops using an app, the carrier could solicit feedback or help the developer figure out why. Given how few applications get used, perhaps that does add enough value to cut the carrier in on any revenue share agreement. However, I imagine many users would resent it if, after downloading iFart and then deleting it, the developer sent them an inquiry through the carrier wondering if the user had hated the application or simply decided to grow up.