Years back TMC launched a magazine titled IMS which stands for IP Multimedia Subsystem - and represented an architecture model allowing carriers to open up their networks to developers who would in turn take a revenue split in exchange for allowingtheir apps to run on the carrier's network. Customers of the service provider would be provided walled garden access to services - they would be pushed to use authorized apps. Fast forward some years and now the app stores are owned by Apple, RIM, Nokia and others. The carriers were just too slow to implement their models and perhaps they were the wrong class of company to be involved in the software business. But you may have noticed that these successful companies typically are in the mobile space meaning the walled garden applies today in the wireless market.
App stores have been so successful on phones that companies are looking for ways to extend them. Apple of course will only allow iTunes App Store apps to run on the new iPad tablet and this hybrid device represents the expansion of the walled garden to the lap.
This week Google has launched an App Marketplace which works on the desktop. Developers are able if they choose to add their apps to the market and best of all integrate with Google's Apps utilizing XML and a slew of other open standards such as OpenID and OAuth.
If you take some time to go through the video above you see a sample "Hello World" app which developers generally use as their first app in any programming language. Included in the video is a discussion of how Intuit has integrated a payroll app into the Google marketplace family of solutions. What is interesting is how this app integrates with Google Calendar and moreover how various apps from different developers have a similar look and feel.
Two things are worth noting - the fee for developers is 20% of the sale price and a $100 one-time listing fee. Also, apps need approval as they do in the Apple iTunes App Store.
The threat here is obviously to Microsoft as hosted solutions are a lot cheaper to deploy than those which reside on local servers. They also scale on-demand and local backups and disaster recovery are less of a worry. Moreover, Apple should feel threatened as this app store can easily have superior integration with Google Android-based devices.
The walled-garden is typically considered a bad thing as it prevents true openness. But in Google's case their new ecosystem will allow cheaper solutions to hit the market. Moreover the data integration challenges plaguing customers and making integration houses rich will potentially evaporate in the future.
So on balance, I consider this development to be incredibly good for customers. I hate the idea of anyone approving applications - I consider it the electronic equivalent of burning books. But I am able to understand why Google and Apple like the ability to protect their brands by allowing only certain apps to be associated with their products.
I mentioned this week that piggybacking has reduced the cost of developing new solutions - here is just another example of such a low-cost area of opportunity for new and existing companies.