Verizon To Open V Cast Apps Store This Month

Eight months after announcing its own application storefront, Verizon Wireless finally plans to launch the V Cast Apps store by the end of March. First touted in July 2009, the carrier's app store will launch with about 300 titles and roll out across select BlackBerry phones, according to a FierceMobileContent report.

Leroy Williams, the operator's executive director of applications, told the publication at CTIA 2010 in Las Vegas the number of apps offered would ramp up quickly, with thousands in the pipeline awaiting testing and certification. The store was originally scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2009, but Williams explained that Verizon delayed the timing to ensure that all aspects of the venture were in place before going live.

Verizon is late to the mobile apps race as it is. Apple debuted the App Store in July 2008, and since then a raft of handset makers, carriers and other tech companies have scrambled to catch up with their own app outposts, including Google, Nokia, Microsoft and Research in Motion (RIM).

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Apple remains the dominant player, offering more than 150,000 apps and boasting 3 billion downloads to date. In a report released earlier this week, mobile analytics firm Flurry estimated that downloads of paid gaming apps for the iPhone brought in $500 million for Apple last year.

Recognizing that the mobile landscape is changing, Verizon and the other major carriers have begun shifting away from their traditional reliance on walled-garden strategies to embrace third-party apps and the developer community. "Our future success is no longer in the walled-garden. Our success is tied to you [developers]," said Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam in announcing the V Cast Apps store last year at the operator's first-ever developer conference in San Jose.

Verizon is offering developers the standard app revenue-sharing arrangement in which it takes a 30% cut of sales and lets developers set the price for their wares. John Stratton, vice president of marketing for Verizon, has also said the company doesn't want the V Cast app store to compete with those of phone partners like Microsoft and BlackBerry-maker RIM. Instead, it's intended to be complementary. So an app that has already been cleared for RIM's App World, for example, will move quickly through the approval process to be distributed through the V Cast store. Verizon has promised that most apps will launch within 14 days of submission.

To further entice developers, Verizon is also creating open APIs that let them plug into its billing system so end users can charge apps directly to their wireless bills as well as incorporate location-based services and other features into apps based on network-specific data.

What is at stake is a rapidly growing market. Yankee Group this week nearly tripled its projection for total U.S. app revenue in 2010 from $537 million to $1.6 billion based on higher-than-expected sales last year. By 2014, that figure is expected to reach $11 billion, in part because of rising prices for apps that will offset declining sales in the out years. By contrast, Yankee projects U.S. mobile advertising this year to total only $241 million.

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