You can't buy the kind of publicity Apple gets for free every day. Mainstream and not-so-mainstream media outlets are gaga over the iPhone, running gushy app-of-the-day features, and breathlessly reporting the ever increasing number of downloads from the App Store. The San Francisco Chronicle, to cite one egregious example, ran 157 articles in just 30 days about, or at least mentioning, the iPhone.
Not exactly an environment that pushes a company to do better. So if you believe in the virtues of competition in the marketplace, you have to welcome the news that Verizon is getting serious about mobile apps.
[ See why life isn't always so rosy for iPhone developers. | Learn the pros and cons for developers of the main mobile platforms. | Discover the four options for BlackBerry app development. ]
Once stuck in a bucket of BREW, telco's runner-up carrier is broadening its horizons with a new focus on platforms, including RIM's BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and perhaps Android and Palm, says Ryan Hughes, Verizon's VP of partner management.
The apps will be distributed via an online store, which Verizon expects to open before the end of the year. What's more, a company not known as particularly developer-friendly is streamlining its approval process for new mobile applications and pledging to be competitive on the revenue-sharing front.
Fast-track approval process
"The walled garden is down," Hughes tells me. What does that mean? First of all, Verizon is not going to set qualitative rules for its applications. "We're not going to reject a game because we think it needs to have more levels," he says. (Like other U.S. carriers, Verizon has been notorious for the high controls over its limited selection and distribution of existing old-technology mobile apps, the so-called walled garden.)
Obviously, applications have to meet technical standards -- an app that power cycles a phone and quickly drains the battery, for example, will need to be fixed before winning approval. "We take content standards and parental controls very seriously, but at same time our commitment is to rapid distribution," Hughes says.