Vendors Pushing App Marketplace Boundaries

Vendors have always sought to present themselves as the platform for everyone else to build on, and the same is happening now with application marketplaces, where many companies are throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks.

Amazon will soon launch a public beta of its Kindle Development Kit, a set of tools for building applications and active content for its popular e-reader device. Amazon says developers see the Kindle as a platform, but this claim is weakened somewhat by the company's refusal to reveal how many Kindles it has sold -- unless "millions" counts as an answer.

At CES last month, Samsung unveiled Samsung Apps, an app marketplace that extends the functionality of flat panel televisions, Blu-Ray players, and mobile devices. According to Tim Baxter, president of Samsung America, Samsung Apps will "transform the entertainment experience." It's a bold claim, but also nebulous enough to provide some wiggle room.

Although some application marketplaces probably won't succeed, solution providers say they do represent an important shift in software delivery. Many VARs believe the rise of the application marketplace is being driven by a confluence of factors that are wresting control away from traditional software power brokers.

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"With more ubiquitous Internet connectivity, developments in APIs and improvements in application development models, the world of app development is being opened up to more than just big software companies," says Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Microsoft Gold partner in Fresno, Calif.

"In terms of a place where applications and source code are aggregated, sold and consumed, this is a logical next step that isn't that futuristic," says Tim Huckaby, CEO at InterKnowlogy, a Microsoft Gold partner in Carlsbad, Calif.

Apple has the model down pat, and other vendors attempting to open their own stores are coming to the party late, says Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft Gold partner. However, Sobel still sees opportunity for competitors.

The first vendor that's able to create a more open community of developers than what Apple provides, while maintaining the ease of use and consistency of experience, could enjoy a similar first mover advantage, Sobel says.

"Customers have proven they prefer to have technology that is easy to consume," says Sobel. "Providing that ease of consumption while encouraging a partner ecosystem will be the "next great" version of the App store model."