Wait, What's That? Another App Store?!?

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Hello Sportsfans! While the world celebrates the ascension of the Red Sox to the next round of the MLB Playoffs to face the vaunted Tampa Bay Rays, there is more mobile news worth talking about. RIM is launching an App Store for BlackBerry! That is hot on the heels of the startling news that T-Mo/Google are launching an App Store for Android! And that follows the launch of the App Store for iPhone!

So, is this anything REALLY new? I don’t think so.As far as I remember, Handango has had an App Store for years. I remember how cool it was in 2004/5 when I could download a client onto my Palm Treo 600 and buy an app over the air! That was simply incredible! So futuristic, so advanced, so amazing!

What I am wondering is why it wasn’t exciting to everyone then. Do any of the app stores break any new ground that Handango or even Zingy! (oops, I mean Vindigo) didn’t back in the day? I’m not so sure? And, sports fans, are these app stores any better than the carrier deck? To tell you the truth, they really aren’t. The interfaces are definitely better. The buying process is much smoother, but the concepts are exactly the same. Someone aggregates all the appropriate applications for your device and makes them available for sale.

What is different today is who owns the App Store. Years ago, the carrier was the gatekeeper of what could or could not be sold (and for feature phones, they still are). Then, for smartphones, Handango was the master. And today, the master is the phone manufacturer, Apple, RIM and for all intents and purposes, Google. Is this a dramatic shift? Well maybe.

In the dark days of carrier control, carriers were king makers, allowing only those applications that they blessed to be sold. There were strict guidelines regarding performance, audience size and potential revenue for that title to the carrier. Handango stretched that a bit, giving fairly good terms to the developers. But they still controlled the merchandising and had a “pay to play” mentality. Today’s App Stores are run by more benevolent dictators, embracing some flavor of openness. And they view the app stores as opportunities to create better experiences on their devices. I suspect that few of the App Store owners will make significant money on their stores, regardless of how many apps they sell. And, mostly, that is because they are in the business of selling phones, not third party software.

In the future, the App Store model will start to die, just as the carrier deck has started to fade. More developers will become publishers, and more software will be made that is attractive, essential and compelling, and these developers won’t have to share with the App Store.They will drive the sales themselves.

The App Store is a vibrant new(?) development that is a flash in the pan. And developers, get ready. Soon enough you are going to have to learn how to market your wares yourself. Hey, I think I just found a growth industry. Imagine that on a day Ben Bernanke says the we are in a world of hurt.
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