The Battle for Developers' Hearts and Code


The focus of the war between smartphone manufacturers has largely focused on the user interface and other physical capabilities of the various devices. A related and equally vital battlefield is which company offers the most compelling applications.


There is an ongoing struggle for the hearts and code of developers.The biggest player is the App Store, which provides applications for Apple devices. An AP story posted at USA Today provides insight into an effort being readied by Microsoft for Windows Mobile. Two of the main details of the initiative duplicate Apple: Microsoft will take a 30 percent cut of the purchase price and charge developers an annual fee of $99.


Microsoft's pitch is that it will be more open than famously enigmatic Apple. The App Store has been criticized for taking an inordinate amount of time to accept or reject applications and to be unclear about why a decision was made to accept or reject an application. Microsoft, the story says, promises to be more open. Security, content and bandwidth uses are expected to be the main criteria.


Apple and Microsoft are not the only players. Google followed the App Store with the Android Market. Research in Motion's Blackberry App World will open within the next month, according to Bloomberg. Nokia is planning to consolidate its segmented markets under the Ovi label. The Global Intelligence Alliance Group has released an early assessment of the mobile application marketplace. The firm finds that the App Store is the leader, beating out Nokia and the Android Marketplace, according a report in FieceWireless.The report offers a good deal of useful information. It is a bit cumbersome, since several major players' entries have not launched. GIA identifies five key factors, including time to market, attractiveness to developers, the efficiency of the user interface, and the quality of the user experience. The piece offers a good synopsis of the findings for each of the current and planned marketplaces.


The second half of this post at CRN contains highlights from the GIA report. The first half, though, offers interesting input from Mobclix about the impressive progress being made by the App Store. As of March 9, it offered 27,131 applications, after being at the 10,000-mark as recently as December. More than 300 million applications were downloaded. About 77 percent of the applications are not free. The applications are divided among games (about 23 percent); entertainment (about 13 percent); books (9 percent); utilities (8.5 percent); education (7 percent); and news, weather and medical (1 percent). Corporate uses, apparently, don't represent a discrete category.


Mobile application marketplaces are not new. This India Times piece says they have been around since 2001, when Qualcomm created an end-to-end channel for BREW handsets. The writer lumps in Handango, which serves multiple operating systems, with vendor-specific offerings. The next milestone will be the launch of the Ovi Store from Nokia. It is, the writer says, a consolidation of the company's Download!, Mosh and WildSets operations. Among the requirements for success in the segment are centralized billing, global distribution, on-device discovery and provisioning capabilities.


The fireworks may begin in earnest -- or get brighter -- when Nokia's Ovi store opens its cyber doors. Reuters says that this will happen in May. The story says that Ovi will reach 50 million consumers, compared with only 20 million for the App Store. The piece points out that size doesn't necessarily mean success, and that Nokia has not proven as good as Apple at getting folks to pay for downloads. The 30/70 percent split used by Apple and, soon, by Microsoft will also be used by Nokia if payment is made by credit card. Purchase through operators would mean less revenue for developers. More than 80 percent of purchases are made this way.


There eventually will be two, and perhaps three, types of mobile application marketplaces: those geared toward specific vendors; toward specific operators and those; such as Handango, that work across network and vendor lines. It will be fun to see which devices and which type of online marketplace wins.