Monday, May 11, 2009

Nokia and Apple go head-to-head with latest app store plans

The battle of the app stores continues to heat up, with Nokia promising that its forthcoming Ovi Store will go live with about 10,000 items, while Apple is under fire again for saying it will only consider products based on the new iPhone 3.0 software for App Store. However, the new release does open up a wide range of new APIs, which could spark an even greater wave of developer activity for the handset.

Nokia told Forbes magazine that Ovi Store will have 20,000 apps at launch, making it the second largest after Apple's. This will certainly top Android Market's launch with just 50, and RIM's with a few hundred, though is well short of the iPhone's current tally. Key differentiators, says Nokia, will be a heavy focus on entertainment and video; the ability for users to personalize the choices with which they are presented; and extensive use of the store to distribute new Nokia software updates as well as apps.

Meanwhile, despite its popularity with users, the App Store continues to excite controversy among developers. The latest way that Apple has succeeded in getting their backs up is the announcement that it will only now review applications that are compatible with iPhone 3.0 as well as the current iPhone 2.2.1 OS. Any software currently in the Store that does not run properly on 3.0 will be removed, Apple told programmers on Thursday. iPhone 3.0 will be released to the public some time this summer, probably with new phone models too.

According to ArsTechnica, many developers are concerned. Apple said existing apps should run on the new OS without modification, but many have found otherwise, and fear their wares may be ejected from the Store even before 3.0 devices appear. One fear expressed by various programmers is that the move from 2.x to 3.0 changes parts of the ABI (application binary interface), which could cause problems for software that uses static libraries built using the 2.x toolkit.

To make matters worse, until developers are released from non-disclosure agreements about 3.0, they cannot put apps in the Store that are based on the new OS release or use 3.0 specific features, threatening a hiatus period in revenue terms until the unspecified date when the new platform goes live.

In other Apple news, a recently spotted job ad suggests Apple may be planning a PC with embedded 3G, and possibly even a netbook, despite scathing remarks made about the form factor by Steve Jobs and other Apple executives. The ad calls for a quality assurance engineer with experience in "3G and/or Wireless WAN".

And AT&T is reported to be planning to cut the iPhone's monthly services plan by $10 when new models appear, to keep it competitive against a wave of new upcoming phones. This would make the entry level data service plan for the device $59, down from $69, and reduce the cost of the two-year contract by $240. Currently, AT&T subscribers spend $1,856 over the life of their deal. The new deal could accompany a much rumored cutdown iPhone or 'iPhone Nano'.

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