CTIA Scorecard: App Stores

Whose profile is rising: BlackBerry App World. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Research In Motion officially unveiled its BlackBerry App World virtual storefront in conjunction with president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis' CTIA Wireless 2009 keynote appearance Wednesday morning. Although the store lags some months behind rivals such as Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market, the recent growth of the BlackBerry OS (which now powers 19.5 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, second only to Symbian, according to Gartner) as well as RIM's clearly defined enterprise user segment should translate to significant commercial success. 

BlackBerry App World promises a broad cross-section of personal and business applications, Lazaridis said. "We've worked closely with our carrier and developer partners," he added. "[BlackBerry App World] aggregates applications in one place, and gives enterprise customers the controls they need." BlackBerry App World is designed to automatically spotlight relevant premium and free applications according to each individual user's respective BlackBerry device model. Each week, the app's Front Page Carousel feature will showcase a suite of new apps, complementing the list of Top Downloads. In addition to user reviews, complete screenshots and app descriptions, the store will enable BlackBerry users to recommend applications to contacts via email, PIN, text message or BlackBerry Messenger.

RIM will break down BlackBerry App World downloads into 13 different categories: Entertainment, Games, Maps and Navigation, Music and Video, News and Weather, Personal Health and Wellness, Personal Finance and Banking, Productivity and Utilities, Professional and Business, Reference and eBooks, Social Networking and Sharing, Sports and Recreation, and Travel. Users may access the store via both cellular and WiFi networks. BlackBerry App World will also include My World, a personal storage space that keeps track of all the user's downloads to date, offering uninstall and re-install tools and premium application transfers.

RIM adds that BlackBerry App World will offer about 1,000 applications at launch. Confirmed contributors include Bloomberg, Clear Channel, Gameloft, Lonely Planet, MTV Networks, The New York Times, Pandora, Shazam, Slacker, vlingo and WorldMate. That's a good start, and it sends a signal that BlackBerry App World will consist of more than white-collar enterprise apps--even if those are what the average BlackBerry user will download first.

Whose profile is falling: Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Mobile app shop continues to confuse and alienate the development community. Last week Microsoft responded to controversy over Windows Marketplace for Mobile developer fees, announcing that programmers will now be able to deliver updates to their apps for free throughout the application lifecycle. Microsoft previously said it would charge an annual registration fee of $99 and would count all application updates as new submissions, charging developers who exceed their limit of five submissions $99 for each successive upgrade. The new policy will instead offer unlimited free updates, although other submission restrictions and charges remain in place--at least for now. Needless to say, the store is still very much a work in progress.

Other Windows Marketplace for Mobile news: Microsoft said the storefront will offer consumers the option to purchase apps with a credit card or have charges appear directly on their phone bill. Customers also may return an application within 24 hours of purchase for a full refund. In related news, mobile operators that partner with Microsoft on Windows Marketplace for Mobile will gain access to a branded section of the WinMo apps catalog, offering carriers a channel to market their own applications and services to customers. Microsoft also announced a flurry of mobile developer partners that have already signed on to offer applications through Windows Marketplace for Mobile, including AccuWeather.com, The Associated Press, CNBC, EA Mobile, Facebook, Gameloft, Glu Mobile, Handmark, MySpace, Namco Networks, Netflix, Pandora, ShoZu, Sling Media and Zagat Survey.

On Thursday, Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division President Robbie Bach headlined a CTIA Wireless 2009 keynote appearance that touted the company's vision of a converged future connecting PCs, televisions and mobile devices, but barely addressed Windows Marketplace for Mobile's role in that future. The keynote was a lackluster affair, heavy on product demos per Microsoft tradition--perhaps the most colorful moment was a pre-taped appearance by fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who will create customized themes and screens for release with the upcoming Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system. "People want their phones to be a fashion statement," Bach said. "This is about customization and personalization, and making the phone your own." No argument here, but a stronger sense of Windows Marketplace's role in that philosophy would be helpful. 

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