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Verizon Pitches New VCast App Store to Devs

Carrier billing, network APIs and the marketing muscle of its Web portal are among the highlights for mobile app makers that Verizon announced at its first developer conference being held today.

Dubbed the VCast App Store and slated to open in Q4, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) courted the coding community by putting forth its agenda for creating a mobile app storefront, emphasizing marketing, support and protocol plans it believes are more open and reciprocal than "the competition" (which surely includes Apple's market-leading iPhone App Store).

In the past, mobile operators traditionally tightly controlled developers access to their network and software, and offered a limited selection of apps in their stores, but Verizon wants to break way from that model.

"Our future success is no longer to be ours, inside the walled garden. Our success is tied to you in the room, and you watching on the Internet today," said Verizon President and CEO Lowell McAdam.

The VCast store will join a crowded field -- Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) pioneered a consumer phenomenon in mobile applications with its App Store, and was followed by Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android Market, Research In Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry App World, and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) store due out later this year for Windows Mobile.

Yet Verizon believes it will entice developers by waiving fees for developer registration and for app testing and certification. It will also open "innovation centers" on both coasts with dedicated support teams to keep dialogue open between developers and key Verizon staff.

Verizon reiterated it plans to stay out of the developer language business while providing a 14-day approval process from submission to publish date. It will also offer carrier billing, considered to lower obstacles to purchase because charges show up on a user's wireless bill as opposed to using a credit card online.

John Sutton, chief marketing officer for Verizon, warmed the crowd up by announcing developers would get 70 percent of revenue, and received cheers and applause, though that's standard in the industry with only RIM offering an 80-20 split.

He said Verizon customers will be able to purchase the apps on their devices, as well as on its Web portal, Verizon.com, to bring a ready-made audience to mobile applications at the store.

"The Verizon Web presence is substantial, Verizon.com is the twenty-sixth most-visited site, with 60 million users, half of which come to the site every month, so there's lots of visibility, you don't have to create it, we'll have ratings, reviews. There'll be fusion between devices and the Web site," said Sutton.

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