Application Stores are the big thing at the Mobile World Congress this week. Few stories here and here and here. While Apple’s AppStore and Google’s Android marketplace have been known for some time now, we hear that Nokia, Microsoft and RIM have similar plans.
As we mention in our recent EBU paper, new functionality in handsets will be done in software. This is quite new in the mobile world but we are definitely used to this principle with our personal computers. We buy software for them. That’s what makes them extremely flexible, evolutive and thus useful. This paradigm emerges on mobile phone platforms now because they are evolving as generic and powerful computing platforms too.
This trend was identified early on by Apple (as usual) who created the AppStore as part of the iPhone ecosystem. The AppStore creates a marketplace for developers and end-users. Developers offer their new creations through the system, typically for a small fee, while end-users shop for applications through iTunes. The whole process of purchasing, installing and removing applications has been streamlined to provide a “frictionless” end-user experience, apart from the few dollars that one has to leave on the table!
I believe that the key benefit from these new marketplaces for applications is innovation. A democratized marketplace for innovation.
Before, application innovation was limited to MNOs and key partners of the mobility value chain. Now, anybody can create new applications. New applications will come from the masses, like Google, Wikipedia, Flickr, Youtube came from new players and non-incumbents.
Also, with more open marketplaces comes increased competition. That is good for consumers. End-users are only one click away from competing applications.
And what if the competing application is free? Such platforms will make “free” and “pay for” applications equally accessible. Could this lead to the erosion of the software market? Many think so. In order to sell their apps, developers will have no other choice but to offer leading edge products with truly exclusive features.
What does this mean for broadcasting? At the moment not so much I guess. The perspective is attractive though. What if moving from DAB to DAB+ could simply be achieved through a new software app. A broadcaster would announce the move and asks its listeners to go buy the 2$ piece of software on the app store. In exchange, end users get more channels. Click, pay, download, … voila! What if all new broadcast applications could be offered this way? EPG, Slideshow, TPEG traffic overlay for google maps,… and so on. In fact, we don’t know what the mobile broadcast applications of the future will be. But we know it will be in software. We just need broadcast receivers in those handsets.