Verizon and even Freescale join in app store game

As if the world of application stores were not already overcrowded, operators and even chipmakers are now joining in the game. Verizon Wireless, as well as loosening some of its ties to Qualcomm’s Brew with a broad Java commitment, is promising its own app store, joining close ally China Mobile. And Freescale is talking about a netbook focused store that could span different Linux variants.

Verizon Wireless CEO, Lowell McAdam, was a keynote presenter at this week's JavaOne show, and promised to open an app store based on Java later this year as the cellco increasingly opens up its formerly carefully guarded platform. The Verizon branded store is in line with the bid by many operators to put their user interfaces and branding at the forefront of users' mobile web experience, helping to keep customers loyal even in an open access world.

They also hope such strategies, which could offer customers software across a range of handsets and operating systems, will give them a strong position in the mobile value chain – though perhaps Verizon will not be able to have quite a strong position as China Mobile, its ally in many initiatives such as the Joint Innovation Lab.

The Chinese cellco also plans a store this year, but wants to take 50% of the revenues, in contrast to the 30% demanded by Apple, Nokia Ovi and others. By contrast, some operators like NTT DoCoMo, are discussing taking a minimal share to boost developer enthusiasm – no doubt mindful of the Japanese success of DoCoMo's i-mode platform. It was a precursor of modern web content systems and was very generous to programmers.

Like another close partner, Vodafone, Verizon will build a large carrier-wide store and promises to publish the specifications and application program interfaces in late July. It will continue to major on Brew for its feature phones and own-branded CDMA products.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Taipei, Freescale was showing customers a prototype store for Linux that aggregates about 6,000 programs and tools, designed to promote its new 'smartbook' architecture. This store is unlikely to open for business in its current form – it is really a blueprint for the branded shop fronts that individual OEMs are likely, Freescale thinks, to develop for the devices they create around its iMX51 processor.

And on the store theme, Dell may have failed to break in to smartphones so far, but it has put a mobile web site into beta release, to make it easier for customers to purchase Dell products from a phone. However, the PC maker denied this launch was tied into any imminent phone releases of its own.

Rethink Wireless