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Android Gets Carrier-Operated European App Store 89

Andrew Smith writes "Android fragmentation begins: EuroDroid reports that Vodafone will launch an Android app store in June, to fill in the European gaps where Google hasn't yet launched the official Android app store. Worrying quote: 'All apps will be pre-selected and tested by [Vodafone's after-sales processor] Arvato Mobile for compatibility with our devices.' Just a few days ago Slashdot covered the suggestion by Barry O'Neil, ex-president of Namco Bandai Network Europe, that it could be wise for Google to 'hand over the entire management of the Android Market to carriers, OEMs, and trusted publishers.'"
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Android Gets Carrier-Operated European App Store

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  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:48PM (#31801112)

    It seems to me that Vodafone will simply be another repository for android apps - except that they decide what apps to show. What would prevent anybody else from just duplicating everything but the apps over which Vodafone has copyright control?

    To me, this seems more like Vodafone creating a windows app store: yes, they control what is shown, but I can still go to download.com, private sites and individual developers to get Windows apps. Same thing for Android. Well, except for those who have Vodafone phones... I'm sure there'll be some trickery on there to prevent users from getting apps from anywhere but the Vodafone store.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Firmware added to "their phones" that only allow users to purchase from their app store. Apple cut the carriers out of the market with the iPhone. The carriers aren't going to let Google do the same.

      • At least you can buy the phone unlocked and able to do anything from Google and then take it to any provider. It'll be interesting to see what people actually go for, the open android market or their locked up provider's market since they will have a choice if they want it.
      • carriers are just dumb pipe carriers. They want more easy revenue but if they don't contribute, they won't see any revenue.

        As an example, verizon has apps that are free but require people to pay extra on their account to use (visual voicemail).

        Vodaphone trying to nullify the entire app store will ensure that either a: nobody gets apps from vodaphone or b: nobody buys the phone.

        I can't forsee this ending well, even if vodaphone does a good job with it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

      The other shoe may drop soon. Already some Android devices lock out "sideloading" of non-Market apps. Other devices are rumored to lock out both sideloading and access to the phone via ADB, both in an effort to prevent people from rooting the device, and as a way to limit options.

      So, I can see some cellphone providers (not naming names) locking out all app stores and ADB on their devices, then only allowing apps to be downloaded from their store... and of course the apps are not going to be free.

      • Strangely enough, everyone expected Verizon to be the one to do this, but no, it was AT&T.

        Don't go not naming names. Let people know which phones to stay away from.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by davester666 ( 731373 )

      "Worrying quote: 'All apps will be pre-selected and tested by [Vodafone's after-sales processor] Arvato Mobile for compatibility with our devices.'"

      What they really mean:

      Worrying quote: 'All apps will be pre-selected and tested by [Vodafone's after-sales processor] Arvato Mobile for compatibility with our business model.'

      • and Arvato will skim an extra 20% off the revenue.
        -And Arvato will have painful testing hoops you have to jump through
        -And you'll probably have to pay for the privilege and pay again every time you upgrade.

    • by toriver ( 11308 )

      Maybe they will do the same as AT&T did with one of their latest Android phones, and restrict the phone to just that store, preventing you from installing software from other sources - unless you root it and install your own version. Which probably will count as a violation of contract or something... ah freedom.

    • Exactly, this isn't fragmentation at all.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )

      Well, except for those who have Vodafone phones... I'm sure there'll be some trickery on there to prevent users from getting apps from anywhere but the Vodafone store.

      And before you know it, Orange, T-Mobile, etc have all done the same, and there is your fragmentation.

      • by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

        Where is it?

        On Windows, I download applications from where I like. On my 5800 I download applications from where I like. Same as I did on my V980, or my Amiga years ago. No one criticises how every platform in the history of computing, except the Iphone, has worked.

        Not to mention that it's still speculation by the OP that Vodafone will be locking their phones down. Both my aforementioned phones are on Vodafone, and they've implemented no such restrictions. And "app" store that they supplied is in addition t

        • I'll note that Verizon (45% owned by Vodafone) locks down all of their dumbphones, partially by using BREW instead of J2ME.

          Everyone else's J2ME phones, you download whatever the hell you want. Maybe you'll get a warning, but at least on the phones I've tried it on, it works.

          BREW? Nope. With BREW, applications have to be signed by the carrier to run.

          And, the reason why carriers want this... they want to control how much data you use by making it impossible to install data-hogging apps.

    • by LBt1st ( 709520 )

      Exactly, this is just another option for users.

      More importantly, this allows more people to sell their apps. A result of Google's failure to allow developers in many other countries to sell on the Android Market. Devs want to sell their apps, and since Google isn't allowing them, Vodafone is stepping in. It's a win for everyone except Google. But at least the platform is open, which allows this to happen. On Apple's platforms, the devs and users would simply be screwed.

    • by oztiks ( 921504 )

      The way i see it if Android doesn't do it the Carriers will if the Carriers don't do it the manufacturers will do it (of course in this case iPhone wouldn't pose this problem) but for Android whose to stop Motorola from setting up an App store.

      Eventually it will become a cat and mouse game, Voda will sell Android over the iPhone if they can make money out of the Apps, if Voda can make iPhone drop their pants or perhaps partake in a partner agreement so much the better for them.

      Whatever the case maybe, iPhon

  • What about the contries that have neither Vodaphone or Android paied apps :(
  • What? I live in the Netherlands and my Android phone has this "Market" thing. If that's not the Android app store then what is it?

    • Not all european contries have access to the paied apps in the android appstore. On that note, maybe htc should get theit head out of their a*** and start shipping my Desire some tine soon :p
  • by owlstead ( 636356 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:56PM (#31801180)

    So Vodaphone customers can buy apps that have been tested on their device and without paying by credit card (I presume it's harder to steal money from them this way). Of course, if you can't use other app. stores, then this might be a problem. But I wonder if Google would allow companies to use the Android name if it cannot connect to their marketplace.

    If anyone has more info on whether it will be the only app. store configured/configurable, please let us know.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gbjbaanb ( 229885 )

      I suppose it makes sense - there's an 'app store' for android, but what about stores for apps that are built for a particular device, or have capabilities offered by a particular carrier?

      In these cases, I think its a good thing to allow multiple app stores for the phones. Android is not like the iPhone in this regard - but then, if you have an iPhone, there's only 1 type of device you have.

  • Not fragmentation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pavon ( 30274 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @04:07PM (#31801218)

    When you say that a software ecosystem is fragmented, it means that applications written for one target device/distro/whatever, won't work on another without changes. The degree of fragmentation is how much effort is required to support each target.

    Having separate app stores does not create fragmentation, as any user can still get the applications elsewhere. This is like saying the sky is falling because Walmart and Target both exist and sell different products, rather than there being one official retailer at which all comrades must shop. There is convenience in having everything in one place, but it also has problems with consolidation of power. This can be abused to force people out of the market, as Apple has demonstrated wonderfully. Even if the one true app store has an open and fair policy at first, time changes everything, so the ability to get apps in other manners is essential.

    For the convenience of their customers, Google should open the main app store to worldwide ASAP, but it does take time to wade through the legalities of that. Till then, these other repositories can fill the gap, and the fact that they can exist at all is great.

    • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

      Fragmentation comes from who owns the app store in question and how they'll act. Do you honestly think carriers won't block other app stores from their phones that aren't making them money? Apple has shown them the forbidden fruit and now they're all lining up to take a bite out of it.

      • by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

        Let's see your evidence for this FUD? My 5800 is on Vodafone, and I can download applications from where I like.

        It's hilarious trying to watch Apple fans claiming "Look, everyone else will be as bad, too, honest!" Anyway, I thought the locked down "app" store model was supposed to be a good thing, according to Apple fans, right?

    • by DdJ ( 10790 )

      There's more than one kind of fragmentation. One is certainly the sort you're talking about (and that's the one that did the most damage to J2ME). But another is fragmentation of the market. If most Android device users get used to only buying from whatever app store is the default on their own device, how many business relationships is a developer going to have to maintain in order to sell their wares? How many distinct certification processes are they going to have to go through?

      With the degree to whi

  • This shows yet again that no matter how open the consumer device is, as long as the carrier operator does not endorse some sort of net neutrality, openness will be only superficial.
  • This i almost like comparing the Linux community with just Ubuntu's software centre. Things on Ubuntu are going to work on Ubuntu, other apps might not. This is just going to help compatibility.
  • Yikes! These are the same guys that want to charge you $$$ for a 10 second ringtone when you already have the entire song on your phone?

    No thanks.

  • by InakaBoyJoe ( 687694 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @05:30PM (#31801796)

    "Android fragmentation begins"? I don't think so. It's in full-swing.

    Seems like every week some marketing dweeb comes up with the brilliant idea to create yet another app store. Motorola [motorola.com] and Lenovo [jlmpacificepoch.com] have their own, as does China Mobile [dailyradar.com]. That's not even counting the dime-a-dozen independent entries with names like Handango, Cellmania, AndAppStore, MobiHand, GetJar, Nexva, SlideMe, etc. etc.

    I am an Android developer, and get an email every week from yet another app store. Each has its own custom requirements and contract overhead, and they expect us to do the work for free for the "privilege" of joining their flock and whatever scheme-of-the-day they are concocting as their business plan.

    No thanks. I dump those emails and stick with the Android Market. For all its flaws, developers need to show solidarity and work towards improving it. The alternative is to give away your work and place it in the hands of the likes of wireless carriers, who will continue their land grab game at the expense of the developers, innovators, and consumers.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

      What app developers need to do is just what the parent has done. Just stick with Google's app store, and don't try to peddle their apps on other markets. This way, customers always come to one place, rather than check one store and not others.

      Oh, and even though I've not seen the contracts the other stores have in place, I'm sure the terms are a lot worse than Google's. I'm sure a lot of them require a certain threshold before someone gets paid, lots of fees and gotchas, and maybe even a requirement of e

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Svenne ( 117693 )

        What app developers need to do is just what the parent has done. Just stick with Google's app store, and don't try to peddle their apps on other markets. This way, customers always come to one place, rather than check one store and not others.

        No. What Google need to do is to enable that part of the market for the so called European gaps. The first Android mobile phone marketed in Sweden was the HTC Magic, and that was back in February 2009. It's been more than a year and Google still has not made paid apps available on the Market.

        Before that happens, I'm all for independent market places filling the need that Google for some reason doesn't.

        Maybe this will speed things up. One can at least hope, even if Sweden wasn't on the list of countries supp

        • That could be a valid argument, IF this Vodafone app store was indeed "to fill in the European gaps where Google hasn't yet launched the official Android app store" -- as the summary says.

          But that's false. According to TFA, ALL of the countries targeted by Vodafone [eurodroid.com] are ALREADY supported by Google Market [google.com]. That is (from TFA): The Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

          Android apps can be downloaded in an executable format, just like desktop apps. So why the need for an app

          • by Svenne ( 117693 )

            ALL of the countries targeted by Vodafone are ALREADY supported by Google Market. That is (from TFA): The Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

            Well, except for Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

            The thing is, I as an end user don't care about what's keeping Google from opening up the market. It's not like they've gone out of their way to offer alternative methods of payment, say for example associating your credit card with your google account or something like that. For us end users, all we know is that we've missed out on paid apps for a year, and there's no light at the end of the tunnel as far as we know.

            Maybe some day, in another year or two, paid

        • Well, Google obviously isn't locking out countries because it just hates the funny languages spoken therein or something. I presume they need to make some legal arrangements first, especially so in EU with VAT and other such stuff. And maybe they also run afoul of some local privacy policies?

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )

        What app developers need to do is just what the parent has done. Just stick with Google's app store, and don't try to peddle their apps on other markets. This way, customers always come to one place, rather than check one store and not others.

        How do you suggest I come to that one place when Google does not offer access to it from where I live, even for free apps? SlideMe is at least accessible to everyone (I can't speak for any of the others, as when I looked around SlideMe seemed to be the only alternati

    • by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

      I take it you've never been a developer for desktop platforms. If everyone had had your attitude, one wonders how people ever managed to write software for computers, with all the so-called "fragmentation". "Oh no, all these millions of websites that people can download applications for Windows, how will I as a developer ever cope! And there isn't even an official Microsoft Store to save poor little me!"

      • If you think the mobile device market is anything like the desktop computer market, you're grossly ignorant.

  • Android based phones have been available in my country for over a year now. Google still hasn't gotten around to enabling paid apps for this region.

    Yes, I know it's because of Checkout, but I honestly don't care at this point. They've had enough time to get Checkout going, if they can't be arsed to do that they should use one of the gazillion payment services that already _do_ support this region. Just let us bloody buy apps!

  • I wonder when all these gazillion different app stores realises that they're just repositories and as such, they should just fix one (branded?) client that uses repositories similar to how synaptic/apt works? It's bound to happen sometime.
  • by ConfusedVorlon ( 657247 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @06:31PM (#31802428) Homepage

    I'm sure the carriers would attempt to muscle in anyway, but there would be less room for them to make this move if Google did a better job with the market.

    Here are just a handful of ways the market is crap

    1) No way to browse on the web and download to your phone. I can't even post an http link to my app that will work on the desktop and on the device*.
    -Apple does it through iTunes
    -Palm does it by sending you an sms link to your phone

    2) Actually, you can't even browse the appstore on your desktop without going to some third party scraped site. I challenge you to find VLC Remote on the android.com/market

    3) Developers have to price apps in the currency they live. Seriously - I live in the UK, so you have to buy my app for £x. It's insane. And particularly after apple have demonstrated a simple tier-based model that is simple for consumers

    4) Loads of countries just can't buy stuff. If this is hard for you google - just talk to Mobihand or one of the many mobile app-store companies who have figured out how to take international payments

    5) Even if your country does support sales, the international billing means that credit cards keep getting declined (us credit cards don't want to authorise $1 for an international sale via google checkout).

    This would be excusable for a few months as the store rolled out.
    It is long past a joke now.

    *I built a site that at least lets you create an http link for your android app which will work on the device and on the web.
    http://and-download.hobbyistsoftware.com/ [hobbyistsoftware.com]

    • sorry to reply to my own comment - but this is pretty insane.

      the whole android app info is stored in the android market - but while you can flick through a couple of pages of top apps; you can't search.

      Seriously - Google has created a site with a crap load of info that you can not search.

      Better than that - It isn't even indexed!

      I tabbed through some of their apps and found one called JETCET PDF. You can see some of the details and screenshots.
      Googling for JETCET PDF site:android.com gives a couple of result

    • Confused, I hope this will be useful to you: www.appbrain.com ^_^ That site really helped me out.
  • Blame the Gooooog (Score:2, Interesting)

    by anarche ( 1525323 )

    So I've been trawling the android forum, and apparently the lack of market app in certain countries is due to the carriers removing the market from the firmware. Reflashing the firmware apparently includes the market irrespective of location:
    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Android+Market/thread?tid=77c72b9d5214d01b&hl=en [google.com].

    also worth noting (for those of us with the market) - check out ePetition Open Android, a petition to google to ensure everyone gets the market

  • I don't think fragmentation is just beginning on Android. Half the phones run v1 and updates are rare. It's fragmented!

    One reason businesses are cool to Android is the malware. Until there is an app store with an approval process, businesses are going to stay away from Android. So these guys are going in the right direction with apps.

    But the phones can still only hold a small number of apps and there's still no C apps.

Pascal is not a high-level language. -- Steven Feiner