More app stores in store at MWC 2009

Given that iPhone and iPod touch users have downloaded more than 500 million mobile applications since Apple opened the virtual doors of its App Store in July 2008, it should come as no surprise to discover that the application storefront phenomenon looms as one of the major talking points of Mobile World Congress 2009. With Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer among the scheduled keynoters, word on the street suggests the software giant is poised to announce a series of new mobile initiatives in Barcelona, chief among them SkyMarket, the Windows Mobile app store first rumored last fall. A centralized virtual marketplace enabling consumers to find, purchase and download applications and content optimized for WinMo devices, SkyMarket was previously slated for introduction in conjunction with the release of Windows Mobile 7, but with the new OS delayed for the foreseeable future, it now appears Microsoft will launch the storefront sooner rather than later. Also reportedly on tap: SkyBox, a new solution that synchronizes mobile device information with the web, and SkyLine, which is essentially SkyBox for the enterprise.

Microsoft is not the only marquee name scheduled to introduce an app store next week: Samsung will unveil its own storefront for Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. The virtual marketplace, an extension of the Samsung Mobile Innovator developer program first announced last year will offer consumers over-the-air application browsing, purchasing, downloading and installation--Samsung will initially launch the service in the U.K. market, and will offer about 1,100 free and premium apps when the store opens.

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