Verizon to Launch Cross-Platform App Store for BlackBerry, Palm, More
Verizon Wireless plans to debut its own on-device smartphone app store for BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Mobile and Android devices before the end of the year--and it's reportedly the only one that will ship with new Verizon handsets. CIO.com's Al Sacco doesn't expect Verizon's store to make any sort of significant splash, but as long as the carrier doesn't block other app shops, it should be good news for users, as well as developers.
Everyone who’s anyone in the wireless space wants in on the app store game. Handset-makers, carriers, third-party software vendors and others all want a hand in the action, a chance to bring in some of those iTunes App Store dollars.
Verizon won’t block installation of on-device clients like App World for BlackBerrys, Marketplace for Mobile on Windows devices or the Android Marketplace on smartphones running Google’s mobile OS. In other words, customers will still be able to download and use whatever compatible app stores they please; they’ll just have to locate and install those clients themselves.
Developers would still create apps specifically for mobile platforms, like BlackBerry or Android, but they’d all be offered via similar versions of Verizon’s app store tailored for those different devices and operating systems.
Any apps sold through Verizon will reportedly undergo a short vetting process to ensure compatibility. And they’ll all feature certain APIs and tools that will enable customers to purchase the apps and bill them to their monthly wireless statements, according to reports.
Developers will also have a say in pricing their apps, a drastic change from the way Verizon sells third-party applications for feature phones or “non-smartphones.”
Though I don’t necessary like the idea of Verizon pushing its own app store and purchasing process down customers’ throats, it’s really no different than what AT&T and other carriers have been doing for years via “crapware.”
It’s also a bit underhanded of Verizon not to ship devices with app stores from handset makers (in addition to its own on-device offering), but it’s not surprising. Verizon is in the wireless business to make a profit, and a large percentage of mobile dollars are now associated with software and not just hardware.
Unfortunately, Verizon has remained mum on the subject of application pricing and developer payment details, saying just that they’ll be “competitive, not only with the price, but with the process and the simplicity which developers have come to expect in open ecosystems,” in an interview with GigaOm.com.
This little detail seems very significant to me, as it could mean the difference between developers distributing apps through a handset-maker’s “official” app store, or Verizon’s. If Verizon offers a larger cut of profits on BlackBerry apps than App World, developers will likely gravitate to Verizon’s store, though I really don’t see why developers couldn’t offer their products via both, or all, available channels.
I must say, however, if Verizon’s new app store is anything like the current BlackBerry Application Center, available on the BlackBerry Storm 9530 and Tour 9630, I’ll pass. The app center has been available for months, since the Storm’s launch in November, and its selection is still incredibly weak, featuring mostly Verizon-specific apps and common IM programs.
Still, assuming Verizon doesn’t pull any (more) shady dealings–I’m keeping an eye on you, Big Red–the freedom to choose from another app store can only be a good thing. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Verizon keeps its customers in mind here and not just the potential benefits to its bottom line.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.