The Apple App Store (AAS) recently achieved over 300M application downloads, the AAS web front page is shown below. It provides a template for the telecom industry on how to work with developers and how to sell applications to customers, as discussed in the
End of Year Review weblog article. Granted it’s only for a single device type, but Apple has done a great job in educating billions of customers on all the cool stuff you can do on the phone. The opportunity for operators is now to leverage the AAS blueprint to address the billions of customers Apple will not.
Here is where the struggling ODP (On Device Portal) can come into its own. I’ve reviewed the ODP landscape, its struggles and evolution in previous weblog articles. Originally created to improve the operator’s walled garden portal experience, it was over-sold as providing a solution across all devices. In practice, the user experience of an ODP on a significant minority of devices was a good way of deterring customers from data services.
The Operator’s App Store is not a new concept; there are early adopters, for example: Verizon AppZone is built using mPortal’s ODP, and the old Three X-Series downloader was built using Cibenix, see below for their web front pages. The critical issue is not technology; operators must commit, copy Apple, and pre-load their ODP App Store only on the devices that give an excellent experience.
The other critical issue is having the necessary scale to be attractive to application developers. The multinational operators will have the scale required. For smaller operators it will be necessary to either join a larger operator’s initiative or a consortium, e.g. the Bridge Alliance, to create the necessary scale. The ODP vendors should also leverage their position to aggregate their deployments to provide a route to market for application developers. Multiple channels to market is not an issue, let the market decide what channel is best. What matters is providing customers with an excellent experience and a rich (easily searched, with categories and recommendations) variety of applications – just like the Apple App Store.