Desperate Mobile Carriers Try To Regain Relevance In App Industry

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More competition for Apple’s iPhone App Store: Some two dozen huge mobile carriers — including the companies that own the four biggest U.S. carriers — are ganging up to push their own “open platform that delivers applications to all mobile phone users.”

The hope is to regain relevance in the app market — mostly lost to Apple and other handset makers in the last few years — by making carrier app store fronts across a variety of app platforms and handset devices.

This is, of course, in competition with the iPhone apps platform, which launched almost 2 years ago and has flipped the mobile industry upside down, making carriers’ previous apps strategies irrelevant. It also competes with Google’s Android app store, Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows Mobile 7 app store, BlackBerry’s app store, etc.

Apps are a big deal these days, so it’s easy to see why carriers think they need to do this.

But it’s hard to see how this will be successful. While these carriers combine to reach a huge number of people — some 3 billion mobile subscribers — and carriers are fortunate to have a direct commerce/billing relationship with subscribers, this just sounds like a huge mess.

Carriers have almost NEVER built ANY platform — besides their original voice phone and SMS networks — that consumers embrace. They’re terrible with user experience, design, simplicity, and other things consumers value — and that rivals like Apple excel at.

Moreover, how the heck are more than 24 companies with different customer bases, different priorities, and different cultures, and different needs going to build one thing that works for all of them? They won’t. It’s probably going to be a huge waste of time.

According to a press release: “The alliance’s stated goal is to create a wholesale applications ecosystem that — from day one — will establish a simple route to market for developers to deliver the latest innovative applications and services to the widest possible base of customers around the world. In the immediate future the alliance will seek to unite members’ developer communities and create a single, harmonised point of entry to make it easy for developers to join.”

Full list of carriers involved in this project: America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind. Also included: LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

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