You haven’t been able to walk down the street recently without tripping over yet another new app store. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) lit the blue touch paper, but now handset makers and operators alike are each trying to replicate its success.
As Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher told a panel at Mobile Entertainment Market ’09 in London: “Every man and his dog is launching an app store.” But, with a veritable app store nuclear face-off brewing, doesn’t everyone risk fragmenting the market and confusing their customers?
RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) alliances director Rory O’Neill, who recently launched BlackBerry’s App World, advocates a joined-up approach: “It’s important we respect our relationships with operators.” But on the other hand: “The reality is there have to be multiple routes to markets for developers … it’s important we … make sure it’s not just about one store and one route to market.”
Worst-case scenario – that could splinter the consumer channel. James Parton, head of O2’s Litmus developer storefront said: “Everyone’s selling the same catalogue – the worst possible thing is a customer switches on their phone and there’s three different app stores on there … it could lead to a mess.” And Buongiorno (BIT: BNG) CEO Andrea Casalini agreed: “I tend to think there are too many app stores being built right now.”
With all this proliferation, I asked the panel from the audience, why not come together? Why not learn from the TV biz and do a Hulu for mobile apps? After the giggling subsided, Parton hinted just such an idea may be in the works: “We are talking to each other, but it’s early days.”
Until then, Apple might seem to have a monopoly on app downloads but, whilst the panel’s Symbian Foundation representative said iPhone is “a pretty Anglo-Saxon product”, GetJar marketing VP Patrick Mork’s stats reminded us: “Apps are not a western European American phenomenon – amongst our top five countries for downloads are India, Egypt, Indonesia.”