Verizon's app store plans likely to irk phone makers

Verizon wants to use its muscle as a major U.S. carrier to pull smart phone applications into its own online application store

Verizon want to use its muscle as a major U.S. carrier to pull smart phone applications into its own online application store. To that end, Verizon is hosting a Verizon Developer Community Conference on July 28 to encourage developers to design software for the carrier's phones.

But building its own applications store is not Verizon's only goal. The company also wants to exclude handset-specific software outlets like Blackberry App World and the Android Marketplace.

One thing that Apple proved with the iPhone is that the model of third-party application development is highly successful. Since then, most major phone maker have come up with their own App Store including Blackberry, Android, Microsoft, Palm, and Nokia.

What Verizon is doing

Verizon is not coming up with its own mobile operating system that handset makes will have to use. Instead, what they're doing is reportedly demanding that any mobile phone sold by Verizon comes with default access to only Verizon's app store, Ryan Hughes, VP Partner Management told GigaOM. That includes popular smart phone makers like Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry and Palm.

If you'd rather access the Android Marketplace, Blackberry App World or any of the other app stores, you can still do that by downloading the store onto your phone or by visiting the app store online. Verizon has not given any specific business details yet about its app store, but the company says its smart phone app store will be an open model allowing developers to set their own prices and enter a revenue-sharing agreement with Verizon.

Verizon and JIL

In addition to aggregating content from major smartphone platforms, Verizon's app store will likely see applications based on a set of standards from the Joint Innovation Lab. JIL is an alliance between four worldwide carriers including China Mobile, Softbank, Verizon, and Vodafone, whose aim is to unify mobile applications into one standard. The group also wants developers to be able to "leverage mobile operators' unique capabilities" with the JIL standard. Verizon's developer conference will show off the JIL standard during a video presentation, but it's not clear how much the conference will focus on JIL beyond that.

JIL may be a nice idea, as it means you can create cross-platform applications for mobile devices; however, for JIL to work you have to be building for a JIL-compliant phone, according to a posting on the group's development forum. There's no word yet on which devices will be compliant with the new standard, but the alliance plans on delivering a JIL handset roadmap later his summer.

Verizon says it joined JIL because "there are too many mobile operating systems to work with and certifying applications across eight or nine operating systems, plus many different handsets, has slowed the delivery of new software to subscribers." In other words, Verizon wants to reduce the number of mobile operating systems developers are working on, and deliver applications to Verizon customers as quickly as possible.

Carrier App Stores?

Verizon has always sold applications for feature phones, as do most carriers, but smart phone applications are a completely different scenario. Let's face it: The stars of the mobile scene are the handsets, not the network they run on. While some people certainly have their hate on for carriers like AT&T, many more are willing to jump carriers rather than wait for the device to come to their network of choice.

Handset makers have already invested far too much time and money into their app stores and development community to allow Verizon to muscle into their territory. Some manufacturers without superstar devices like Samsung, Sanyo, and maybe even Nokia may comply with Verizon. But I would be surprised to see Blackberry, Microsoft or Palm playing along with the Verizon app store.

As for that other famous smartphone...

I think it's a safe bet that Verizon's app store will make it very difficult for the post-AT&T iPhone to make the jump to "America's Largest and Most Reliable Network."

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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