Mobile Operators Unite to Fight Apple App Store: Could it Work?

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Mobile Operators Unite to Fight Apple App Store: Could it Work?
Can a motley group of 24 global carriers play well together and create a gigantic, open marketplace for mobile applications--one that works as seamlessly for consumers as Apple's App Store? Certainly, skepticism is running high that Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), a just-announced alliance between, well, Everyone But Apple in the mobile phone space, can make its ambitious plan work.

For instance, could sworn enemies--and strange WAC bedfellows--AT&T and Verizon Wireless agree on anything? Two carriers that spend too much time in courtrooms arguing the nuances of TV ads might not see eye-to-eye on app store strategies. Add in Sprint, another WAC participant, to the mix, and you've ratcheted up the conflict factor another notch.

And those are just the U.S. carriers involved. Toss in the international partners, plus handset makers Samsung, LG, and Sony Ericsson, and you've a got the makings of a grand political stalemate. As a result, it's unlikely that a WAC-backed app store would operate with the same precision as one run by a single company, particularly one as tightly managed as Apple.

Vast Global Market

Despite the political challenges ahead, the WAC, if implemented properly, has enormous potential for both its participating companies, app developers, and consumers. Its initial customer base is estimated at more than 3 billion users--a staggering number that shows the ubiquity of mobile phone use across the planet.

Just how common are cell phones today? There will be 5 billion mobile phone subscribers globally this year, according to new estimates from the International Telecommunication Union. The U.S. Census Bureau says the worldwide human population is just over 6.8 billion and rising. In other words, nearly three-fourths of all people on the planet use a cell phone.

Yes, some users, particularly in developed countries, subscribe to two or more mobile services, so my figures aren't precise. But there's little doubt that mobile devices are changing the world we live in.

A global app store, whether built and operated by WAC or another coalition, is a better option than the mishmash of competing standards and services that most mobile users face today.

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