PocketGear buys Handango

Together, PocketGear and Handango will offer the largest cross-platform mobile app store

PocketGear on Tuesday said it acquired Handango, creating the biggest cross-platform mobile application store.

The combined store will have more than 140,000 applications, PocketGear said. Users of Android, Symbian, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm, Linux and Java phones can shop for and buy applications for their phones from the sites.

Both companies in one form or another date back to 1999, when the market for mobile applications was very different from what it is now. The concept of buying and downloading apps to a phone was once a niche idea but has been popularized recently by the iPhone with its App Store. Plus, smartphones are best suited to the use of mobile applications, and the phones now make up a larger portion of the overall mobile market.

While the market for mobile apps has opened up, PocketGear and Handango now face competition from the application stores developed by handset makers, including Apple's App Store, Google's Android Market and Microsoft's Windows Marketplace. Those stores let users browse and purchase apps directly from their handsets.

Those stores may be a better deal for developers too. Handango and PocketGear take a 40 percent cut of revenue from software sales by developers. Many of the other stores that are tied to handsets, including Apple's and Google's, take a 30 percent cut of sales.

But Handango and PocketGear have advantages for end-users and developers too. End-users can shop for applications from their computers. Some application stores, like Google's, do not let users browse the full catalog or buy applications from a computer.

Developers that offer applications for a variety of phone platforms may like to offer their applications through a store like PocketGear's because it's one store that serves users of many phone platforms.

Handango and PocketGear have other businesses as well. They build application storefronts for operators and handset makers including T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Samsung and Research In Motion. PocketGear also offers tools for developers to build their own storefronts, and more than 1,000 developers have done so, PocketGear said.

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