Two big mobile app stores aren’t a good thing says Morgan Gillis, executive director of the LiMo Foundation, which was founded in 2007. Speaking on behalf of the organization — short for Linux Mobile — Gillis pointed out Thursday that barriers still exist for developers, carriers and consumers because of the Apple – Google duopoly of mobile ecosystems. There’s only one problem, though: I don’t see consumers asking for more app stores.
Here are a few of Gillis’s remarks, made at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress 2011 event:
Our observation is that the traditional app stores don’t work perfectly from a business model perspective, for content providers and application providers. In particular the premium model and in-app billing is not particularly well supported. Not because it is particularly technologically difficult to do that, but because sometimes there are some strategic conflicts and some business model conflicts, and the will to overcome those doesn’t always exist.
Gillis also mentions the problem of app discoverability, but another app store isn’t going to solve that issue. If anything, it would likely make it worse. In which app store should you look for a particular app? The other concerns Gillis raises are mainly around control — not terribly surprising since the LiMo Foundation is a non-profit industry consortium. And who has control over the ecosystems today? Mainly the software platform owners: Apple, Google, Microsoft and Research In Motion.
On the outs are the carriers, who have tried to push their own app stores at one time or another, but have been relegated to, at best, subsections of the Android Market on Google-powered devices. Handset makers, too, have lost some control, although Samsung does have its Samsung Apps hub on some devices. It also has its own platform in Bada, which, of course, has stores for media and apps. Samsung was a founding member of LiMo, as was Motorola, which ended up leaving the group.
The LiMo Foundation has worked closely with another group aiming to help the carriers and handset makers regain control from the platform builders: the Wholesale Application Catalog (WAC). Gillis notes, “[T]he WAC focus today is on strategic APIs, which will allow key operator services to be deployed in a cross-platform and cross carrier context.”
I like the general intent of what both groups are trying to do, as it could help all parties involved. But the mobile app market is fairly entrenched now, both by the platform ecosystems and some strong independent app stores such as GetJar. Trying to change that scenario now or in the foreseeable future is like spitting into the wind.