If you have had any kind of smartphone in the past decade, you are probably aware of and have even used PocketGear or Handango to purchase your apps. Now these two software retailers are combining their catalogs to go head to head against platform owned stores like Apple's App Store and Microsoft's Marketplace for Windows Mobile. Will it help them survive though?With all of the major smartphone manufacturers including an application store on their device, will anyone bother installing a second storefront on their device? More importantly, even if they wanted to, will the platform allow it?
Unless you jailbreak it, the iPhone restricts all installations to its own app store, which is why neither Handango nor PocketGear sell a single iPhone app in the catalog. Handango actually lists apps for the iPhone but when you click on them, it simply redirects you to the iTunes based App Store. I doubt too many iPhone users are browsing Handango's site for apps then going to the App Store to download.
As I wrote on February 8, Microsoft seems to be headed down the same path of requiring apps for their new platform, Windows Phone 7 Series, to be installed exclusively through their Marketplace.
Ignoring those two platforms, the two online stores boast more than 140,000 applications for Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile 6.5.3 and earlier, Symbian and Palm, as well as Java apps that may be installed on a variety of feature phones that support it.
I wish them the best, but I just don't see it helping their dilemma where phones come installed with their own stores. Handango and PalmGear have been at this for over a decade and to date, the only store that you could truly call a raging success is the iPhone App Store. To get most of the public interested in installing an app, you have to make it drop-dead simple, and that means the store has to be on the device when they walk out of the carrier's store. Rather than a new beginning for these two independent stores, I think we are witnessing the beginning of the end. Mergers from positions of strength are the ones that tend to be most successful. Mergers from positions of weakness often signal a last desperate attempt to stay relevant and to me, this smells of desperation.