Sprint jumps on open app store bandwagon

Everybody’s doing it and as Sprint (NYSE:S) demonstrated in its earnings yesterday, it really can’t afford to be left behind. The carrier announced today at its Open Developer Conference that it will introduce a new, more open application store in future feature-phones, and it will replace its existing built-in offerings on future BlackBerry and Windows Mobile 6.5 devices.

Sprint is tapping independent app store GetJar to build up its application base, but said it will also support multiple payment methods and eventually add operating billing options across most existing app stores, including Microsoft Windows Marketplace for Mobile and BlackBerry App World. It has also promised an average one-week turnaround for app submissions when it unleashes its app store in the first quarter of 2010. Learning from its competitors past missteps, Sprint said it would approve all submissions that meet basic criteria, as well use the industry standard revenue split.

Like Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD) with the Droid and AT&T (NYSE:T) with the iPhone, Sprint has already  abandoned its app model in favor of its operating system partners’ versions on current Android and Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) smartphones. This industrywide focus on openness has lead to a lot of change in practices, as well an explosion in app stores, potentially creating competition between multiple storefronts on the same phone or confusion for consumers overwhelmed with choice. Sprint has promised to provide marketing opportunities to help developers differentiate and highlight their apps — a tricky proposition in an open environment. It won’t, however, let developers draw on its subscriber information to build more targeted apps. Sprint also said this new app store strategy will span all its business units, including Nextel, Boost Mobile and WiMAX, which may be even more open, according to the carrier.

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