iPhone manufacturer Apple is facing a challenge to its dominance in the market for applications, with the news that a host of mobile phone networks and manufacturers are uniting to establish an open source platform for developers.
The umbrella group, which comprises 24 mobile phone market players including Orange, O2 and Vodafone as well as China Telecom and AT&T, is joining together to clear the way for applications to be developed that work across a range of manufacturers’ handsets.
Support for the initiative, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress expo today, also comes from Sony Ericsson and LG, neither of which currently have an app store of their own.
Apple’s early entry into the market and high-profile marketing of its iPhone App Store has seen it become the dominant player in the applications sector. Most recently it announced that up to three billion downloads have been processed through its store, with 30 per cent of each sale going to Apple.
Latterly rival mobile phone makers, such as Palm and Samsung, have woken up to the scale and profitability of operating an online software market and have launched rival platforms. However, the new venture, which is dubbed the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), represents the first time that networks have collaborated on such a project.
Central to the WSA's strategy is using a set of universal standards for developers instead of creating new standards. In so doing, it aims to make things easier for developers to bring products to market.
Rob Conway, Chief Executive of the GSMA, welcomed the news and compared the move to the creation of a “a new open ecosystem” which will “spur the creation of applications that can be used regardless of device, operating system or operator”.
Mr Conway added: "This is tremendously exciting news for our industry and will serve to catalyse the development of a range of innovative cross-device, cross-operator applications."
Nonetheless, experts are forecasting key obstacle for the store’s chances is likely to be the difficulty of creating software that works with a host of different platforms. Not only does this present a technical challenge to developers, but it could have implications for how quickly applications can come to market.
It is thought that the time it takes an application to go from the drawing board to being sold on the Android Market, which is also open source, is around three months.
Conversely, the closed nature of the iPhone App Store means that apps take much longer to become available to consumers. Delays are caused partly by the lengthy approval process that developers’ wares must pass through before they are approved for sale in the App Store.