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Will A Unified App Store Put A Dent In Apple’s Armor?

Ever since Apple launched the App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch all we have heard over and over again is how successful it has been.  Over 150,000 apps available, billions downloaded, it seems most of the time you can’t throw a rock without hitting a story about the Apple apps.  And, not too surprisingly, the other cell phone companies and manufacturers want in on this.

We’ve seen other companies trying to copy the success with tools such as BlackBerry App World and the Android Marketplace, but none of them seem to capture the excitement and market penetration that Apple has enjoyed.  There is also the issue for developers that they are having to split their resources between too many different systems and languages.  What are companies and developers to do?

Enter the Wholesale Applications Community announced this week at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

wacmembersLost somewhat in the clamor over the announcement of Windows Phone Series 7 was the fact that two dozen phone carriers and three phone manufacturers are teaming up for a unified approach to mobile app development.  Dubbed the Wholesale Applications Community, the group is made up mobile carriers from all the world and includes America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind.  The three handset manufacturers involved are LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

The idea is that all of these companies will work together to launch a common app platform that will allow an app developed for it to be used on any of the partner carriers or handsets.  Between all of the companies involved there is a potential reach of over 2 billion users, so an app developer should be able to work on just one version of the app and deploy it across all of these companies in one shot instead of managing multiple versions for each.

While this sounds very Utopian, and like all the phone companies are going to sit around a campfire singing “Kumbaya”, let us do remember you are dealing with 27 companies here, each with its own corporate structure.  When was the last time you ever saw this many companies agree on anything for any major length of time?

It would be lovely if this proposal works out, it’s a fantastic idea that two friends on different carriers, with different handsets, could sit at a table and trade app recommendations with one another because they both have access to the same ones.  However, while I see the companies cooperating at first, I just see ugliness down the road.  Heck, AT&T and Verizon are both a part of this, and considering how much they hate each other, how can this possibly last?

There is no word when we will see this roll out to the consumers, but it sounds like it should be some time this year.


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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