Not every company needs an App Store

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Yesterday, Samsung unveiled the Mobile Applications Marketplace, a storefront purposed with peddling Samsung-friendly Windows Mobile and S60 applications to consumers while making developers some more cash than they otherwise might. It’s an admirable idea at face value – but is it the beginning of a terrible trend?

Centralized application stores are nothing new – third parties and carriers have been providing places to purchase mobile software for ages. After the Apple App Store began reporting monumental numbers, however, there was a significant shift; suddenly, those responsible with making the handsets tick wanted to be the ones vending the wares. Google launched the Android Market. RIM announced the BlackBerry Application Center. Palm will be debuting the webOS App Catalog with the Pre. What do Apple, Google, RIM, and Palm have in common that Samsung lacks? They control the platform for which they’re selling applications.

If you’re looking to start an application outlet, you need to be at the reins of the platform; if you don’t, you’re further segmenting an already messy market. With Samsung launching their own boutique, others will likely follow; suddenly we’ve got all sorts of manufacturers all peddling the exact (or nearly exact) same junk in a different way. Some might have an on-device store, while others rely on a web-only storefront – all of which would are likely to have completely different interface. Developers who choose to offer their goods through multiple outlets will need to maintain each one individually, monitoring sales and collecting revenue from each individually. Consumers never get the native, unified experience that makes the App Store so enticing. It’s a step in an entirely wrong direction.

That’s not to say that the device makers couldn’t make things better, however. In fact, they’d have to be the ones to do it – but they’d have to work together. Nokia has been surprisingly mum on the S60 app store topic, and Microsoft’s nose is split between the Windows Mobile 6.5 and 7 grindstones right now – so those two are unlikely to have a fix-all solution for the current iterations of their platform any time soon. Thus, responsibility falls to those pushing the devices off the line. If you’re going to get knee-deep in app sales, guys, you need to form an alliance. One store, one common interface, one thing to pitch to consumers as the place to go.

Should it happen? Certainly. Will it? Of course not. Every company involved is a direct competitor with the rest. By the time they worked out agreeable terms and managed to get it onto devices, Windows Mobile 7 (which will include SkyMarket, purported to be Microsoft’s official rebuttal) will have launched and penetrated enough of the market that developers likely wouldn’t be interested anymore. Oh well.

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