The coming application store shakedown

This year was the year of the application. Next year is shaping up to be the year of the application shakedown.  Almost every major handset maker is setting up its own application store and ecosystem, and many mobile operators are also “sticking a toe” in the murky apps water fearing they will be left out as over-the-top applications sales burgeon without their involvement.

This is almost a carbon copy of the music and content store frenzy that attempted to wrest market share from Apple’s other success story, iTunes. It would be a brave man to predict that the latest applications frenzy will end any differently. It is unlikely that the fragmentation created by the many disruptive “wannabes” will amount to very much and, just like iTunes, Apple will continue to provide the majority of application sales worldwide via its App Store.

The reason is quite simple. Apple devices are all compatible with the applications developed and all their devices can be kept updated continuously. Most other mobile handsets lack this feature. Some models have multiple iterations during their lifecycle and the various software versions don’t always retain compatibility. The only way that any single player could challenge Apple would be to have technology that could interrogate any connected handset to determine its capabilities and to provide a version of the application selected that will be guaranteed to work on that device.

This is probably the single biggest barrier to broad market success and until consumers can be certain the application they purchase online works on their device, then they will be hesitant.  The application store provider will also need to be a trusted brand and big enough to take on Apple’s might.

The great application store meltdown is not far off.

Tony Poulos is head of the TM Forum’s revenue management sector

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