Enough With All the App Stores, Please

Samsung announced Monday that it is planning to release an App Store to rival Apple, BlackBerry, and Android app stores. The company said that when its store launches later this month, it will offer 300 applications. By the end of the year, smartphone owners will be able to enjoy over 2,000 applications. But there’s a catch: Samsung’s store will only be available, for now at least, in Europe. It’s expected to be offered in 30 countries.

Regardless of its availability, I’m perplexed by Samsung’s decision to offer an app store. I understand that app stores are a great way to make some money. But for the most part, that has only been true for Apple. Competing stores from Google and RIM have yet to gain the kind of traction those companies would have liked. And that’s mainly due to the fact that many of the applications available in those stores were built for the iPhone and ported to those other devices. The apps don’t work the way they should. And they don’t interact well with the smartphone’s software.

What makes Samsung, or any other company besides the big three, think that they can somehow compete in the app marketplace? Right now, Apple is offering over 65,000 applications in its App Store.
RIM’s BlackBerry App World boasts over 2,000 apps. Google’s Android Market has over 3,000 applications. With just 300 applications at launch, it’s difficult to see how Samsung’s application store can
compete on any level with its competition.

But it gets worse. Applications are really only useful when they provide a greater value proposition. As nice as Samsung smartphones might be, they’re not equal in any way to the iPhone. The iPhone is a
product that makes sense for high-end applications. It has a touchscreen to interact with the software. It has the graphical prowess to accommodate video games. And it has the sheer number of users it
needs to appeal to developers.

What does a Samsung smartphone bring to the table that can make consumers think twice about the iPhone? What would compel them to choose applications from Samsung’s store over Apple’s store? Your
guess is as good as mine.

That’s precisely why the craze over app stores needs to stop. It’s starting to look like music stores released earlier this decade to compete with iTunes — save for Amazon’s MP3 store, they were all ill-
fated. They didn’t make sense. They didn’t offer greater value than any other product on the market. They were, quite simply, a joke.

The same is true for Apple App Store copycats. The reality is this: Apple revolutionized the mobile application market and, like it did with iTunes, it’s reaping all the reward. Although I understand
that companies like Samsung want to get in on the action, it won’t work. Unless its products look like the iPhone, have an Apple logo on them, and interact with all the same applications as the iPhone, there
isn’t much hope for another app store.

I hate to be cynical, but this one seems rather clear.

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist whose work has included popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move on Twitter at @donreisinger.

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