Vodafone poised to join massed ranks of app store players

POSTED BY Global Administrator
A couple of weeks ago, I remarked on the fact that the world and his dog were busy playing catch-up with Apple and embarking on the app store trail. RIM – tick; Samsung – tick; Nokia – tick due in the next couple of days; Orange, O2 – beta tick. But no Vodafone.

Until today.

 A press release has winged its way through the ether to announce that Vodafone is “to redefine the mobile Internet experience” by offering (i) a set of network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enable third-party developers to build capabilities such as location awareness into their services, and (ii) the facility for developers to enable micro-payments through direct operator billing, obviating the need for credit/debit card payments.

Crucially, the APIs are network specific but not device specific, facilitating the development of apps across the range of handsets supported by the various Vodafone national operators, and thereby (as Nokia plans to do with Ovi) bringing app stores to the mass market.

The move comes just a few weeks after the announcement by the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) – a research venture backed by Vodafone, Softbank Mobile, China Mobile and Verizon Wireless – that it was planning to launch a range of tools to encourage innovation among global mobile developers, including a common mobile widgets specification and SDKs.

So, developers will be able to use Vodafone SDKs and Vodafone APIs to offer apps which will then be billed via Vodafone’s billing mechanisms… on what will become, in effect, Vodafone’s app store.

Like other app storefront managers, Vodafone will offer developers a revenue-share deal; as with Apple, developers will receive 70% of the proceeds. This in itself represents a remarkable mindshift on the part of Vodafone, which typically collects 50% of on-portal content across its European operators, and reflects the impact which Apple’s App Store and its business model have had on the mobile entertainment market.

Vodafone hasn’t yet confirmed a launch date for its platform, although it is expected to be made available by the end of 2009.

Vodafone – tick pending.