The news today that Microsoft is preparing to launch a mobile app store of its own to support the upcoming release of Windows Mobile 7, seems like a no-brainer in light of Apple’s successful offering for the iPhone. So much so that it begs the question: why didn’t they think of it before?
It’s not just a Microsoft issue. Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, for example, also largely leave it to others such as Handango to offer a marketplace for third-party applications.
However, I’d suggest that those aforementioned companies aren’t entirely to blame for not offering their own centralized app store for their respective platforms. Apple has a distinct advantage, at least for now: a single device/platform, as well as success in wresting an unprecedented amount of control from its carrier partners.
One of the most unfriendly and confusing aspects of mobile app stores for platforms such as S60 (Nokia’s smartphone implementation of Symbian) is that they have to cater to different versions of the OS running on various handsets with conflicting screen sizes etc. The result is that often specific apps take an age to be available for the latest devices, if at all. It’s not just a headache for the stores themselves, but painfully so for developers alike. Apple currently has one unified version of its mobile OS with over-the-air updates which, for the timebeing at least, keep parity across the iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPod touch.
As I noted in a recent post entitled ‘The real surprise of the App Store isn’t number of downloads or revenue‘, unlike its competitors, Apple has also been able to establish a direct billing relationship with iPhone customers, a store that sits on the device enabling over-the-air purchases, and no revenue share with carriers. This was previously unheard of in the mobile space, and hopefully will give Apple’s competitors a little more leverage to establish similar arrangements of their own. In fact we’re already seeing this happen with Google’s announcement of their own open marketplace for Android applications.