Mobile Operators Unite to Take on Apple’s App Store

A group of 24 mobile network operators are working together to establish a set of standards for mobile application development, and a central point through which to distribute that software.

To date, Apple’s application store has been the platform of choice for marketers looking to exploit the mobile application space, largely thanks to the reach and audience scale provided by iPod and iPhone devices, and the centralized means of distribution offered by the store itself.

However, the Wholesale Applications Community is hoping to change that, and could provide an opportunity for marketers by significantly streamlining the processes of developing and distributing applications across a range of mobile devices.

According to a press release issued by the group at Mobile World Congress this week, the 24 participating carriers have a total of three billion worldwide subscribers, and the initiative is also receiving support from the GSM Association, alongside handset manufacturers LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

The stated goal is to “create a wholesale applications ecosystem that – from day one – will establish a simple route to market for developers to deliver the latest innovative applications and services to the widest possible base of customers around the world.”

On the back of the success witnessed by Apple in the application space, a number of third parties – including some of the operators involved in this initiative – have launched their own application stores or distribution platforms. It is this fragmentation the alliance is seeking to address. “The community aims to unite a fragmented marketplace and create an open industry platform that benefits everybody – from applications developers and network operators to mobile phone users themselves,” it states.

David Bear, executive director, mobile and social media at digital agency Atmosphere Proximity, told ClickZ, “Any industry partnerships that will help marketers simplify the development and distribution of mobile apps globally is welcome,” but added that it could be difficult to match the ease and simplicity of Apple’s platform. “Jury is out regarding how a global partnership between carriers and handset manufactures can effectively compete with what Apple has created,” he added.

The operators currently committed to the alliance are America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind.

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