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Mobile giants take on Apple with single App Store

Operators promote unity and openness

Twenty-four mobile network operators have formed the Wholesale Applications Community to avoid fragmenting the apps market and to give developers one point of entry to all the members, the GSM Association announced today.

The operators will now start working on uniting their existing developer communities, so developers will be able to go to one place to get their applications distributed instead of having to go through multiple application approval processes.

The community will also start working on a common development standard that should be ready within the next 12 months. The standard will be independent of phone type and operating system, according to the members.

That will allow them to better compete against Apple's App Store or Google's Android Market, which have independent and competing approvals processes tied to their phone or operating system.

The Wholesale Applications Community members include: AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Telefónica, Telenor Group, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. Together the operators in the group have about 3 billion subscribers, the GSMA said.

Just like many phone manufacturers, operators have seen the success of Apple's App Store and want a piece of the pie. Some, including Orange, Verizon and Vodafone, have already launched their own application stores.

Mobile phone manufacturers LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have also voiced their support for the apps community.

The Wholesale Applications Community faces a number of obstacles, according to analysts at CCS Insight.

"Operators are trying to regain control of apps, but have a poor track record with this type of industry consortium," they said in a research note.

"Big challenges remain overcoming inconsistency between standards bodies like JIL and Bondi," the analysts continued, referring to the Joint Innovation Lab created by a group of mobile operators including Vodafone, China Mobile, Softbank and Verizon Wireless, which also has the support of phone manufacturers LG Electronics, Research in Motion, Samsung Electronics and Sharp.

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