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Verizon Wireless opens V Cast Store

Knocks BlackBerry App World off Storm's homescreen but still looks alot like BREW


Published: 30 March, 2010

READ MORE: US | Verizon | App Store | Handset

Verizon Wireless has opened its own-branded applications store, following the rising trend for operators to try to be the key point of contact for content and apps purchasing - spanning different devices and operating systems.

V Cast Apps was initially unveiled last summer and will be open for business this week on selected smartphones, mainly from RIM. The BlackBerry Storm comes first, with several other BlackBerries coming soon. Given its reliance on its close Verizon alliance, RIM may have been happier than some other vendors to allow V Cast Apps to be preloaded on the homescreen in place of its own App World storefront. Nokia has made a similar concession to AT&T, but Ovi Store and AT&T's own planned shopfront will apparently coexist on the homescreen.

Verizon will share 70% of revenues with developers and will offer developers the lure of access to its carrier billing platform, so apps can be charged directly to the user's bill, plus other key network APIs. This is a common operator tactic to leverage the unique assets of their networks to encourage developers to work primarily with them, rather than the vendors' software platforms and storefronts. Vodafone, Verizon Wireless' part-owner, has been particularly advanced in opening up its network APIs, which cover key areas such as location and presence. Both cellcos have also joined the Wholesale Application Community, a group of over 30 operators looking to unify their carrier APIs and tools and offer a massive user base to content and apps houses.

Verizon also said it will help market the applications on its deck and its web site, which is the number 26 web property in the US with 60m registered users. It hopes that this, the billing support and its promise of exclusive content and premium apps will convince consumers and developers in the increasingly fragmented world of mobile stores (although, as Sarah Reedy on Connected Planet points out, V Cast Apps looks "strikingly similar to the BREW Get It Now portal Verizon has had on deck since 2001". Verizon still uses BREW for midrange phones.) It is also examining new revenue streams from premium content - not increasing fees to consumers, but charging providers to get the most prominent spot on its mobile store or web site.

One analyst may not fancy Verizon's chances. Rod Hall at JP Morgan has published a research note strongly favouring the vertically integrated hardware/software model of Apple, RIM and Nokia (although the lines are blurring for Nokia, with its open source, multi-OS strategy, which will lose it some measure of control).

"We believe that user experience complexity will grow and weigh in favor of those companies that can control and deliver superior integration through vertical integration of software and hardware," Hall wrote in his report. He upgraded Nokia and RIM to overweight, or buy, ratings (and already had Apple on that rating).

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