Friday, July 17, 2009

Verizon Wireless' App Store Concerns

One of the thing that makes the iPod-iTunes dynamics so successful is the easy of ease and the whole ecosystem that was created as a result. Apple masterfully duplicated this effort for the iPhone platform along with 60K-strong app store that recently saw 1.5 billion downloads.   Since, many have announced their own app stores and have just begun to offer it to their users.

Pre, Android, and Blackberry all offer their own app stores (some more apps than others).  This will be joined by Windows Mobile soon.  But it's Verizon Wireless that really has the attention of handset makers and app developers if not the general public.

By announcing that they will be the sole gatekeeper of all apps, VW has effectively locked out other competing app stores in an effort to reap in profit, control contents and access to their network.  Sure, VW will allow users to add their own app stores but that's not the point, is it?

VW would like its users to believe that it can create a better user experience than anyone else.  Let me see if I get this right?  VW believes it can develop a better ecosystem than the folks who design the mobile platforms.  VW whose interests lie in making sure it can nickel-and-dime its subscribers for texting, charging higher rates for music, and restricting what folks can do with their phones?

This is also the same VW who has stated that a restricted wireless access will provide a better experience for users.

Suppose in bizarro world, Apple gave up app store control to VW.  And in the interest of optimizing profit, VW will sell spaces to developers to promote their apps.  This increases costs that will certainly be passed along to users.  On top of that, the thousands of developers who don't have the resources like the big guys will be at a distinct disadvantage.  Fart apps aside, hundreds of apps on the iPhone were discovered because of a fair and open app store (for the sake of impartiality here, Apple needs a lot of work on their app store still).

I do hope that device makers revolt against this sinister effort.  But I am not hopeful.  Competition in the mobile market is fierce.  Some platforms might kowtow to VW for access to the tens of millions of users with an increasing number of them opting for smartphones and mobile devices.

Of all the platforms, WM and Android will likely be a part of VW's effort.  Microsoft really don't care about where users get their app so long as they are using Windows devices.  Android is an open source OS so VW can do as they wish.

The main issue is here Blackberry and Palm.  BB will likely follow Microsoft but they're facing a lot of competition.

Palm is one platform in particular that I hope will not allow VW to dictate what it can do with its apps.  Of all the mobile platforms, Palm closely resembles Apple in that it needs to exert a level of oversight its platform, hardware, and development.  And WebOS is a relatively new system that will take time to develop.  Any intereference from VW can stymie that effort.

At the end of the day, VW wants control.  It's that simple.  And you know what's also simple?  Go around VW.  Mobile warriors these days are savvy enough to navigate around settings to add their own app stores.  This is simply what I think users should do.  Developers should withhold their apps from VW.

I'm not saying that VW cannot create a better app store than the handset makers or developers, I simply doubt they can create one that works across all platforms without making sacrificing the bottomline.

I expect things to heat up about this.  Google had always pushed for an open Internet access and Verizon is simply fight for the status quo.  I don't expect VW to get away with this.  Hey, Congress, FTC, and FCC,  you guys busy?

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