Sprint plans open app store

The carrier will also drop its built-in application lineup from all smartphones

Sprint Nextel next year will introduce a new, more open application store on its feature phones, turning to a third party to manage it with the goal of getting new offerings out to consumers in an average of one week.

The third-largest U.S. operator also will remove its own built-in set of application offerings, or "deck," from its future BlackBerry handsets and from Windows phones from Windows Mobile 6.5 onward, said JP Brocket, general manager of wireless consumer applications, at the Sprint Open Developer Conference in Santa Clara, California.

Sprint's Android and Palm WebOS phones already ship without a Sprint application deck, relying on the Android Marketplace and Palm's own stores.

Carriers have come under fire from mobile application developers for taking too long to approve new applications and placing too many restrictions on them, and they have been moving toward outside app stores since the successful launch of Apple's iPhone App Store.

Sprint wants to get out of devoting its resources to lengthy evaluations of software for its own deck and believes a third-party specialist would be better equipped to handle the path from development to sale, Brocket said.

Sprint plans to start up the new store early in the first quarter of next year.

As long as a potential application works and meets basic requirements such as a core set of controls and support mechanisms, it should be approved for the new store, he said.

Its main aim is to get more applications out to consumers, Brocket said.

In addition to speeding up the approval process, Sprint will bring its revenue-sharing plans with developers in line with the industry norm.

Though the market will be more open, Sprint will offer application providers marketing opportunities to make themselves stand out among others, he said.

In addition to the new, outsourced app store, Sprint is working with GetJar to offer that company's store for free mobile apps to most of its subscribers, Brocket said.

Feature phones, which are less expensive and full-featured than smartphones such as Android and BlackBerry handsets, are about half the phones Sprint sells today and are making up a growing share, Brocket said.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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