Vodafone to launch mobile app storefront

Vodafone is the latest to join the mobile app store business, promising developers and web companies a single point of access to its 289 million worldwide subscribers.

The app store, scheduled to go live later this year, will extend across Vodafone's device portfolio; the operator will bill premium downloads directly to subscribers' existing prepaid and postpaid accounts, claiming 30% of revenues in the process.

In launching the new store, it competes against Apple, which has just recorded its 1 billionth download, and RIM. Nokia’s Ovi store is due to open by the end of the month.

So far, no major carrier has launched an app store, but both China Mobile and Telstra have said they planned to do so.

Vodafone said it will provide partners and developers with customer-controlled access to network capabilities like location awareness in an effort to nurture new services and applications, and will create a set of network APIs to ensure new apps work across its entire footprint.

The operator said it also would offer subscribers a related framework detailing how their information is accessed and used.

Vodafone adds it will begin to offer access to selected network enablers via the Joint Innovation Lab initiative, which promises to create a single global development platform to encourage the creation of mobile web widgets.

The JIL - which also brings together operators Verizon Wireless, China Mobile and Softbank - is due to release a website and related SDK this summer.

Vodafone currently operates in 27 countries, with partner networks in more than 40 international markets. The company owns a 45% stake in Verizon Wireless.

For more on the Vodafone app store: read this release