App Store rival announced

Mobile giants plan open platform for apps

The world's leading mobile operators are collaborating in an effort to challenge Apple's dominance of the app market.

At the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona today, mobile trade group the GSM Association announced that 24 telecom companies have joined forces to form the Wholesale Applications Community. It is claimed that these operators collectively have access to three billion customers. The UK's big four mobile operators - T-Mobile, O2, Orange and Vodafone - are among the participants.

Representing almost 800 mobile operators globally, the GSM Association's endorsement is a big fillip for the Wholesale Applications Community. Major handset manufacturers Samsung, LG Electronics and Sony Ericsson have also backed the project.

Wholesale Applications Community and the app market

The Wholesale Applications Community aims to build an open platform that will create an industry standard for the development and distribution of mobile apps. To date, more than 3 billion apps have been downloaded from Apple's App Store while Google, Nokia and Microsoft have their own sites. However, apps bought from one store cannot be transferred between devices.

Rob Conway, chief executive officer and member of the board at the GSM Association, said that the Wholesale Applications Community would "build a new, open ecosystem to spur the creation of applications that can be used regardless of device, operating system or operator". He added: "This is tremendously exciting news for our industry and will serve to catalyse the development of a range of innovative cross-device, cross-operator applications."

Demand for mobile apps has been boosted by the rapid growth of smartphones such as the iPhone 3GS. Last month, Apple announced that it sold 8.7 million iPhones in the final quarter of 2009 - twice as many as the same period of 2008. The company is widely expected to release its fourth-generation iPhone in the summer.