pglogoAlthough it may seem that every smartphone manufacturer needs to have an app store, following the Apple iTunes-App Store-iPhone model, that has not been the history of the market. Generally, manufacturers had focused on their relationships with mobile operators and published APIs and development environments (Microsoft was probably the first with the release of the Windows PDA environment, but RIM was not far (if at all) behind with the Java runtime for BlackBerry), leaving corporate IT and software publishers to fight with mobile operators about getting their app onto the devices in scale and flexibility.

That was the original business model for Handango and PocketGear, which runs a network of sites such as,,, – be an independent marketplace for apps for mobile devices.

No doubt, the explosion of app developers and smartphone devices has really boosted the overall market for smartphone apps and helped accelerate the growth in smartphone adoption, but as far as I can see, the lion’s share of the growth went to the manufacturers with app stores and not the independent marketplaces or mobile operators with app stores.

Attempting to get their share of that growth, is the motivation for this merger and for the recent announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where 24 operators promise to jointly offer storefronts for apps for all manner of devices.

Where Handango and PocketGear have been somewhat successful is in the arcane personal productivity app domain among the original smartphone devices – Symbian, Windows Mobile, Palm and BlackBerry. Longtime mobile geeks have appreciated the value of a concentrated environment such as these markets provide, as have the original app developers.

The good news is that there is little evidence to suggest that users will only get their mobile apps from one place. Like gasoline, it may be the case of a commodity, with the right offer at the right time and right place (I’m arriving at the gas pump entrance right now) will earn the purchase. No doubt, each marketplace will attempt to segment their value add so as to specialize in some way. This could be apps for men, apps for women, apps for this device, or that OS, or this language or for education, for entertainment, for home electronics control. There are many ways this could and should evolve. Watch for it. Innovation is not get finished with the mobile app distribution domain.

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