Vodafone is the latest mobile heavyweight to offer an application store that lets customers browse, buy, download, and install software on their phones.
The world's largest mobile operator said nearly all of its 289 million customers in 27 countries will have access to the app store. This gives the store a large advantage in terms of potential customers, as Apple's App Store can reach about 31 million iPhone and iPod Touch owners. Vodafone will be delivering a software development kit this summer, and the store will be rolled out in the second half of the year.
Vodafone said it will enable developers to utilize location-based information to create geographically targeted apps. This is somewhat similar to what Nokia will be doing with its upcoming Ovi Store, which can suggest apps depending on where the user is located.
One key advantage Vodafone will have is that users can be billed for purchased apps directly on their wireless accounts. By comparison, App Store users have to use their iTunes accounts, Android Market users have to use Google Checkout, and BlackBerry App World users have to have a PayPal account.
"Vodafone is making these changes to make it easier for third parties to develop attractive new services as well as bill and support our customers through our network capabilities in all markets," CEO Vittorio Colao said in a statement. "By giving them simple access to our global customer base and network assets, such as direct billing and location awareness, we will help them to make more money while providing our customers with the innovative services they want."
The move will enable the carrier to capitalize on the increasing importance of software on phones, and it could create new income as revenue from services like voice continue to fall. Like Apple, Vodafone will be keeping 30% of the revenue from apps sold in its store.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on the use of business software on smartphones. Download the report here (registration required).