Today is shaping up to be “the day of the app store.” First it was Verizon (s vz) announcing its own store will be pre-installed on Verizon-branded handsets while other device-specific app stores can be added by the customer. I also heard that LG is kicking off its own app store for handsets in 24 countries. Now we have more details on Microsoft’s Windows Marketplace for Windows Mobile devices. I’m not too keen on Verizon’s play, but Microsoft’s makes sense. Although there are thousands of Windows Mobile applications available in the general market, Microsoft will be offering a centralized place to get them.
Submissions for the Windows Marketplace open up on June 27, according to Microsoft’s Partner Conference. While we already knew the app store was coming, it was initially announced that only Windows Mobile 6.5 devices and up would be supported. In what I think is a very wise move, support for Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 handsets will appear before the end of 2009, Engadget reports. That’s good news for current handset owners — and likely for Microsoft, too.
I can’t think of a technical reason why current phones can’t handle the Windows Marketplace. Certainly not from a hardware perspective. And if there’s a software limitation, I’d expect it could be addressed by a software update from Microsoft. By adding support for handsets sold over the last two years or so, Microsoft gains a much larger potential audience for its Marketplace. Put another way: By the end of the year, I’d expect that the percentage of all Windows Mobile devices running version 6.5 to be far lower than those running 6.0 or 6.1, simply because those older devices have been around for some time.
Going back to today’s Verizon news for a second, what’s going to happen on Verizon-branded Windows Mobile phones? Will Verizon remove the Windows Marketplace from the device builds so that its own app store is the only one pre-loaded? Based on the initial reports, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. I wouldn’t expect Microsoft too be too thrilled with that, considering it’s its licensed operating system that’s running the handset in the first place. Might Microsoft tweak its licensing terms to ensure this won’t happen on Windows Mobile handsets?