How can operators bring app store to the mass market‾

Our survey into the rise of mobile applications and services shows that despite the consumer enthusiasm for mobile applications, operators could risk failure if they try to replicate the model pioneered by Apple.

The study, which was conducted on behalf of Airwide Solutions, revealed overwhelming enthusiasm for the App Store concept among all the operators questioned.

The survey demonstrated a split between those who expect to directly control fewer than 10% of the apps and services launched (45% of respondents), and those who plan to control 20-30% (36% of respondents).

This dynamic could increase the amount of fragmentation that application developers and publishers will face if they want to deploy services across multiple operators and on multiple handsets. Until real standards evolve operators need a consistent platform on which to roll out applications and services.

Cost was also cited as a major factor by 18% of respondents, and a number of operators also said that effective marketing is also crucial for the success of the app store model. The marketing campaign by Apple, which focuses on how to discover and download applications to the iPhone, was seen as an example of how good marketing could overcome many of the education issues faced by operators when launching new services.

Clearly education is an important factor - a separate survey of mobile subscribers revealed a lack of awareness for the app stores.

Only 24% of respondents knew what an app store was, but when the benefits of an app store-like experience were explained, over 50% of respondents said they would want to have an app store accessible from their phone.

This survey, which asked 1000 UK mobile subscribers their opinions on the app store concept, shows that there is clear demand from consumers for applications from operators beyond the current triumvirate of games, music and video.

However, with fewer than 25% of UK subscribers currently owning a Smartphone, one of the major challenges faced by operators in the short term will be how they can deliver an app store experience to mass-market handsets.

There is no doubt that content and services have been reinvigorated by the App Store. It is setting the precedent for the industry but the challenge now is how to extend that experience to the mass market. For mobile operators intent on driving ARPU, deploying an app store-like offering is the solution to delivering content and services targeted at the broad mobile demographic.

It is a strategy that guarantees the operator flexibility and timeliness to respond to changing market and consumer requirements and demands. A network-based solution using common APIs overcomes the pitfall of device and OS fragmentation and ensures that mobile operators will play a pivotal role in delivering app stores to the mass market.