Operator-run app stores risk fragmentation

Carriers risk creating more fragmentation in the mobile application space if they seek to replicate the app store model pioneered by Apple that is causing such a stir in the industry at present.

Mobile messaging firm Airwide Solutions recently commissioned research, carried out by analyst mobileSquared, which found that all operators expect to keep some degree of control over app store environments.

While around 45 per cent of mobile operators expect to directly control less than 10 per cent of the apps and services made available via the app store model, those who plan to control 20-30 per cent amount to around 36 per cent of global carriers.

But the research predicts that efforts to control this content risks significantly increasing the amount of fragmentation that application developers and publishers will need to address if they want to deploy services across multiple operators and on multiple handsets.

On the back of this research, Airwide argues that the present lack of standards has left a gap to be filled by a platform capable of enabling the consistent roll out of these applications and services. Enter Airwide’s Open Services Framework, which adopts a cloud computing model to allow new applications to hook into services that use location, presence, subscriber profiles, mobile internet, and other operator assets without disrupting the core network and infrastructure.

Speaking to recently, Jay Seaton, Airwide’s chief marketing officer said that it presently takes an operator around 18 months to roll out a new application that hooks into various network services, but the company’s latest offering can cut that time by up to 75 per cent.

However, the operator community still has some work to do to push the app store concept out to the mass market. Despite the success of Apple’s own App Store, which has used a marketing campaign championing the discovery of new applications, only 24 per cent of consumers seem to know what an app store is.

However, when the benefits of an app store-like experience were explained, over 50 per cent of respondents said they would want to have an app store accessible from their phone. The survey asked 1,000 UK mobile subscribers their opinions on the app store concept and found that there is demand for applications beyond games, music and video. But with less than 25 per cent of UK subscribers owning a high end handset or smartphone, one of the major challenges faced by operators in the short term will be how they can deliver an app store experience to mass market handsets.


  1. Avatar Nico Koepke 24/04/2009 @ 2:56 pm

    I think the 50% that “would like when explained” is hugely optimistic. Only Apple has todate achieved a reasonable user experience of “download and install”, and it would be interesting also to understand how many apps are actually used over the air rather than wifi sideloads onto itouch etc. The challenge is well described in your article, and coming in from a MARKETING angle it is really difficult to see how brands are supposed to create communication and information for their target consumers across x app stores, y networks and z handsets. We are currently dealing with >4k handsets already – just for image sizing and video profiling etc, and further fragmentation just makes no sense. Let’s focus on getting the MOBILE INTERNET right and a good user experience, and if someone wants the occasional app “to keep”, ok fine.

  2. Avatar Michael Dunphy 27/04/2009 @ 11:00 am

    I think one thing that the operators and other handset manufacturers are in danger of missing is the reason why the iPhone and it’s App store has been so successful. I.e. that it is an evolution from the extremely popular mass market offering iPod and iTunes. It is an extremely easy intuitive step for consumers to make. If anything the iPhone has many parallels with Blackberry. Competing with it in it’s niche will be very difficult and web browsing on both is oversold and not a great experience. I think one other reason for the success of applications on the iPhone is the disappointing web browsing experience which although is superior to most mobile handsets is probably still disappointing for those consumers who are new to high end handsets. Hence, people are willing to pay to download an application that rips football scores from the BBC website rather than browse the website itself for free.

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