By Ian Fogg (bio, recent research)

At MWC, multiple companies have launched mobile application stores that seek to build upon Apple’s iPhone success (Microsoft, Nokia, Orange, mPortico, Surfkitchen, Adtonic, PocketGear and others). These join existing announced app stores (including RIM, Google Android, Palm).

These are more than simple me-too initiatives.

Mobile app stores are not new. Palm, Handango and even Nokia with their Download! service pre-date Apple. Like the iPod, Apple was a follower — rather than first mover — that succeeded due to terrific execution and a clear strategy and market position. Apple benefits from the ease of commercial iPhone application distribution. Developers now prosper in a virtuous circle:

  • iPhone application store is easy to use on phone or PC. It offers consumers reviews, user ratings, reliable download & install and low price points. Developers benefit from reliable content protection.
  • Developers sell more applications and so prioritise more r&d for iPhone over other phones. This leads to a greater catalogue of applications.
  • The greater wealth of third party support increases the benefit for consumers of owning an iPhone, thus driving iPhone sales.
  • A greater installed base of iPhones increases the audience of potential application buyers, leading to increased application sales.

To succeed, owners much ensure that their store’s convenience to consumers is high. Superb execution will be critical.