Verizon is reportedly in early stage talks to create its a global mobile app store according to an exclusive report from The Information published on Wednesday. The carrier wants to work with its peers to create an “industry coalition to launch a new, global online store for mobile applications.” Sounds great right? Sure, if you’re a carrier, since it’s another potential revenue stream. But this dead-end road is fraught with problems and it’s a path we’ve been down before.
This new store effort would be aimed at Google Android phones — that makes sense since Android is the leading platform when it comes to smartphone sales around the world. Frankly, carriers wouldn’t be able to do this with iOS since Apple is intent on controlling the app store experience for its phones and tablets. There’s no other viable choice for a carrier-backed app store.
How exactly would such a store benefit consumers and developers over Google’s own Play Store though? Carrier billing is already available through Google’s store for many carriers, so that’s not a new benefit. Developers would surely have to modify their existing Android apps for yet another store, much as they do for the Amazon AppStore now. So that’s not an appealing thought either. Note: Amazon’s effort works because it has specific devices that are tied directly to its AppStore; carriers could try the same approach, but who’s going to switch to carrier-based phones with a new store at this point?
Simply put, there’s little tangible benefit to anyone but the carriers if Verizon pushes this movement forward. The Information says the carrier is also talking to handset makers for support. Some might get involved but Samsung, the largest seller of Android phones in the world, already has its own Samsung Apps store; and it’s not setting the world on fire either. Why would it add a third store option to its phones when it too wants to control the experience?
If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because it should. Time and again we’ve seen groups try to do end-arounds on the existing app stores to get a piece of the profit pie. Back in 2010, for example, two dozen carriers banded together to create the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC); an effort that sounds very similar to what Verizon is reportedly proposing.
What, you haven’t heard of the WAC? That’s because the idea got whacked out of existince, ending in failure just two years after starting up.
That example happened relatively early in the new mobile app economy that started in 2008. We’re halfway through 2014 at this point and the existing app stores are even more entrenched — customers know them, trust them and buy from them. It’s far too late to crate a carrier-backed mobile app ecosystem at this point. And I don’t know of a single person who’s asking for one.
Update at 1:01pm: According to Re/Code, Verizon says it has no plans to create another app store. Crisis averted!