Patanjali Somayaji To an observer, the mobile market today can look quite muddled. Of course – this makes it a very interesting ecosystem to be a part of. In what signifies as tectonic shifts for the industry, OEMs are vertical players (Apple, Blackberry), or want to be service providers (Nokia with Ovi); Operators are looking to provide services (Orange); and Service Providers want to develop platforms (Google). Linux, as a mobile platform is establishing itself, in a controlled (Android) and collaborative (LiMo) fashion. LiMo itself is a very unique form of open collaboration –not only due to the use of open source software and methodologies – but also because it brings together all members of the ecosystem – sworn competitors, customers, suppliers and ISVs in one big melting pot.
In our industry, there’s never a dull moment. If it’s not the latest acquisition, there’s always the flavour of the year. The buzz used to be Mobile Linux around the time that LiMo was formed in 2007. In the last couple of years, the flavour has been platforms – iPhone, LiMo, Android, WebOS. And the latest fad is App Stores. Everyone has an App Store – after Apple, Google, Blackberry and Nokia have followed suit with Palm and Microsoft expected anytime soon. In the contemporary tradition of all things mobile, Apple showed the path with a simple, elegant and runaway hit. Users have never had it better. And anyone who hasn’t climbed on the Application Store bandwagon yet or anyone who must deploy application channels to the customer absolutely needs to have a solution.
Is a “White Label Application Store” an idea whose time has come? In a market where some-have-it-and-some-don’t, it cannot be long before there are product offerings to fill the gap. A sampling of some offerings: the Handango App Store offers a white label version of their technology, and telecom solution companies Amdocs and Comverse provide customizable solutions targeted to Operators. Potential customers for App Stores also include large enterprises, which can setup their own App Stores to deploy mobile applications across the employee base.
So, while the verdict is still out on whether mobile application developers can finally make money and have a sustainable business model based on application development, at least the opportunity to reach the user is ever increasing. In an industry of shrinking margins, at least the pie is getting bigger.