What's after the App Store?

Roughly a year ago, as the mobile industry prepared to descend on San Francisco for the annual CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference, Apple's iPhone was seemingly all anyone could talk about. As we now return to the Bay Area for CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment 2008, the device's successor iPhone 3G is all the rage, but where the first iPhone innovated the mobile user experience, this latest incarnation is more notable for bringing with it Apple's App Store, a virtual retail storefront that in one broad stroke revolutionized the business of mobile application distribution and sales to the tune of 60 million downloads in the first month alone. By simplifying access to applications spanning from entertainment to productivity tools, the App Store crystallized for consumers the true scope and potential of the mobile experience, illustrating the possibilities inherent in carrying a pocket-sized computer everywhere you go.

The challenge now facing the mobile development sector: Capitalizing on the App Store's momentum. T-Mobile USA is reportedly at work on its own unified software store, one that would work with every T-Mobile wireless device. But the iPhone isn't the sole catalyst behind the continued evolution of mobile applications. Even as Apple vies for its share of the enterprise market, longtime enterprise kingpin Research In Motion is fighting back by extending its BlackBerry platform into the consumer space. Another rival to the iPhone's supremacy: The forthcoming HTC Dream, the first handset based on Google's Android mobile operating system--by all accounts, the device will run on 850/1700/1900 MHz spectrum bands and boast WiFi connectivity as well as an iPhone-like touchscreen and slide-out keyboard.

So the future looks bright--unless mobile application sales and subscriptions fall victim to the recession, of course. Expect the economy to emerge as a major point of discussion at CTIA Wireless I.T., along with Symbian's pending transformation into an open-source platform, Microsoft's Windows Mobile forecast and Verizon Wireless' ongoing Open Development Initiative. As always, mobile seems to live in a state of constant flux--like the subscribers it serves, the industry just doesn't know how to sit still. -Jason