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PocketGear, an independent, cross-platform mobile app store, today announced $15 million in Series B funding led by Trident Capital with participation from the BlackBerry Venture Fund (s rimm). The Durham, N.C.-based store, which claims to be the “world’s largest open app store and content marketplace,” plans to scale technical operations and expand both sales and marketing in a an effort to reach a more global audience. Currently, the PocketGear store touts 140,000 available applications created by more than 32,000 developers.
This new funding is the next step in PocketGear’s fight against platform-specific app stores, such as iTunes (s aapl), the Android Market (s goog) and BlackBerry App World. Back in February, PocketGear bought Handango to gain the competing 11-year old company’s mobile app store customer and developer base. Even as PocketGear expands its audience and capital account, it faces competition, not only from the established platform stores, but from other open marktets as well.
GetJar and its one billion software downloads for both feature phones and smartphones is an example of another long-time mobile app store that PocketGear has to contend with. As if that wasn’t enough, the carriers are getting in on the app store action, as evidenced by Verizon’s (s vz) own software market for the various handsets it sells. The potential problem is that stores like PocketGear are getting squeezed between platform stores and everyone else who wants a cut of the mobile software market, expected by Juniper Research to see 25 billion downloads by 2015.
The biggest challenge I foresee with a cross-platform store is that by offering apps for different operating systems, it can’t be the optimal store for any one single operating system. As consumers buy apps for their device, there’s a “lock-in” factor making people less likely to switch platforms due to their software investment. With such a barrier in place, how does a cross-platform store like PocketGear offer a competitive advantage? The same question applies equally to GetJar, so our Mobilize event next month should provide a great opportunity to answer it, as GetJar’s Founder and CEO, Ilja Laurs, is one of our speakers.
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