RealTime IT News

Verizon Says App Plan Won't Hurt Phone Makers

Verizon Wireless may have courted controversy when it announced it would include only its own app store on its future phones -- despite whatever app stores handset makers might offer -- but today the company reiterated that the plan isn't as strict as it may have first seemed.

In June, the nation's largest wireless carrier announced plans to open a branded app store later this year. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) also plans a developer conference on July 28 to promote the effort.

While Verizon has said its app store would be the only application marketplace to ship with its future devices, it also has maintained that owners would be able to install other, device-specific stores after purchase.

Still, industry watchers cried foul upon hearing the news, claiming that handset makers would balk if so limited. Since the resounding success of Apple's iPhone App Store, mobile application marketplaces have been seen as a major draw for consumers and a significant source of revenue for the handset makers.

Since the debut of the Apple App Store, rivals have followed suit including Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry App Store, Palm's (NASDAQ: PALM) App Catalog for the Pre, Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android Market, Nokia's Ovi Store and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Mobile Marketplace.

But Verizon today reaffirmed that its handset maker partners have nothing to fear from its plans.

"Jim Balsillie, RIM co-CEO, is speaking at the conference on July 28, and I think if he's going to be a key speaker, then in terms of partnering and working together, that shows we're not all about being exclusive," Verizon Wireless spokesperson Debra Lewis told InternetNews.com.

Research In Motion did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Verizon's Lewis said that having the company's app store on handsets at point-of-purchase does not preclude smartphone owners from doing what they wish after they buy the device.

"We want to make the customer experience simple, and be the best it can be, so to simplify things, we will have just ours at the outset," she said. "But if the customer wants to load up 18 different app stores, that's fine. We're not preventing anyone or stopping anyone from doing that."

Verizon is remaining tight-lipped about what we can expect to see in the carrier-branded app store and how the business model will work. The company said it plans to say more at this month's developer conference in San Jose, Calif.

Lewis, however, did say Verizon will be offering some network-based APIs, such as location-based services and direct billing.

"We're not a software company, so we're not providing an SDK -- developers can build for RIM or Windows Mobile or other platforms, then use our APIs to enhance apps, and offer them to our 85 million customers," she said. "We think we offer scale, distribution and opportunity to reach those users."

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said at the JavaOne conference in early June that the company will support Java, a significant change of course in strategy for a carrier that has long supported Qualcomm's (NASDAQ: QCOM) BREW technology for application development and distribution.

The news of Verizon's entry into the app store business comes as Apple celebrates its phenomenally successful first anniversary of the Apple App Store with over 1.5 billion downloads.