The Rise of Mobile Applications Stores: Gateways to the World of Apps

There will be clear winners and losers in the mobile app market, however. Players like Apple and Android have significant head starts. And e-tailers and retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy will be well positioned going forward. But every member of the mobile app ecosystem must begin positioning itself now for the evolution of the market into a system of stores offering downloadable apps that transcend the mobile markets and can be accessed on multiple devices.

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George Appling Giulio Pappalardo

The Rise of Mobile Application Stores Gateways to the World of Apps

This report was originally published before March 31, 2014, when Booz & Company became Strategy&, part of the PwC network of firms. For more information visit

Contact Information Beirut Bahjat El-Darwiche Partner +961-1-336433 [email protected] Hilal Halaoui Principal +961-1-336433 [email protected] Dubai Karim Sabbagh Partner +971-4-390-0260 [email protected] Düsseldorf Roman Friedrich Partner +49-211-3890-165 [email protected] Düsseldorf/London Dr. Michael Peterson Partner +49-211-3890-140 [email protected] Frankfurt Olaf Acker Principal +49-69-97167-453 [email protected] Houston George Appling Partner +1-713-650-4143 [email protected] Los Angeles Giulio Pappalardo Senior Associate +1-310-614-3084 [email protected] Milan Pietro Candela Partner +39-02-72-50-93-50 [email protected] Mumbai Jai Sinha Partner +91-22-2287-2001 [email protected] Munich Gregor Harter Partner +49-89-54525-554 [email protected] Martin Reitenspiess Partner +49-89-54525-522 [email protected] New York Christopher Vollmer Partner +1-212-551-6794 [email protected] Paris Pierre Péladeau Partner +33-1-44-34-3074 [email protected] Shanghai Edward Tse Senior Partner +852-3650-6100 [email protected] Sydney Simon Gillies Partner +61-3-9221-1903 [email protected] Tokyo Paul Duerloo Partner +81-3-6757-8615 [email protected]

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Three years ago, the word “app” was rarely uttered outside of technical circles. But all that changed in June 2007, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the long-anticipated iPhone, a device that has sold more than 50 million units and kickstarted the global smartphone market as well as an entire ecosystem of associated services and applications that have come to be known simply as “apps.”
Today, it is difficult to say whether the popularity of smartphones is driving the mobile app market, or vice versa. It is exceedingly clear, however, that mobile application stores are proliferating. There are already more than 30 such stores in operation. By 2014, the market is expected to see more than 30 billion application downloads and drive US$40 billion in annual revenue (including downloads, value-added services, and advertising). The potential of these app stores is important to nearly every link in the consumer technology chain—device makers, carriers, and retailers and e-tailers. Not only is the market sizable in and of itself, but it has the potential to deepen customer relationships, differentiate services, and drive brand loyalty. Because of this, the market will get more crowded. It will get more fragmented. And it will remain a shifting landscape, with complex relationships to manage. There will be clear winners and losers in the mobile app market, however. Players like Apple and Android have significant head starts. And e-tailers and retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy will be well positioned going forward. But every member of the mobile app ecosystem must begin positioning itself now for the evolution of the market into a system of stores offering downloadable apps that transcend the mobile markets and can be accessed on multiple devices, from televisions to Netbooks to gaming systems.

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The mobile application store market is tightly linked with the explosion of smartphone penetration and usage by consumers worldwide. Mobile apps run on smartphones, which are powerful handheld communication devices with complex operating systems. To understand the mobile app store market, one must first understand the dynamics of the smartphone market. Despite the recent recession, which has caused a 4 percent decline in traditional mobile phone sales, the smartphone market grew strongly in 2009, a trend that is expected to continue. Last year, global sales of smartphones grew 24 percent, from 139 million units to 172 million units. Sales are expected to increase 50 percent over the next two years, reaching almost 400 million units in 2011. Today, smartphones account for 14 percent of global mobile phone sales; by 2011, they will account

for nearly 30 percent. In the United States, half of all phones sold in 2011 will be smartphones. Apple’s iPhone and App Store have been the dual catalysts of this longawaited smartphone market. The combination of iPhone’s superb user experience, App Store’s ease of use, and a business model that provides generous incentives to thousands of developers to create applications for the platform has given Apple the leadership position in the industry. However, it has also shown the path of success to its competitors. Every significant mobile phone original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has jumped on the smartphone bandwagon, developing handsets, platforms, and ecosystems that aim to replicate Apple’s products and business model, with different strategies and varying levels of success so far. Nokia, Palm, and Research

Today, smartphones account for 14 percent of global mobile phone sales; by 2011, they will account for nearly 30 percent.


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in Motion (known as RIM, the manufacturer of BlackBerry handsets) have developed their own devices and platforms, supported by their own dedicated mobile application stores. OEMs such as Dell, LG, and Sony Ericsson have developed devices that run on third-party operating systems—mainly Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. Samsung has adopted a mixed approach, both developing a new proprietary mobile platform, called Bada, and manufacturing and

promoting handsets based on thirdparty platforms. The smartphone market has also attracted the interest of non-OEM players. Software and Internet giants Microsoft and Google have invested significant resources to build and promote their own smartphone platforms. Microsoft recently launched the new version of its mobile operating system—Windows Phone 7—which significantly improves the user experience and

relaunches the company’s ambitions in the smartphone market. Google’s Android platform is gaining traction and market share, thanks to its innovative, differentiating, open, and free business model, which is based, not surprisingly, on advertising. To get a sense of how fragmented this market is, one need only look at the distribution of market share by platform (see Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1 A Fragmented Smartphone Market

Smartphone Market Share by Platform (Percentage of Shipments) Global 100% 100% 3% 100% North America 2% 100% Symbian OS 17% 12% Windows Mobile OS Android OS

31% 46% 13%

Symbian OS

18% 5%

Windows Mobile OS 31% Android OS 29% iPhone OS

15% 6% 14%


12% 15%

iPhone OS BlackBerry OS Other OS 42% 33% BlackBerry OS

19% 1% 2009
Source: Ovum

12% 2014

1% 2009

8% 2014

Other OS

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If the smartphone landscape appears fragmented, the mobile application store market is in complete turmoil. In recent months we have witnessed the announcement and launch of numerous mobile application stores by a disparate set of players. We have counted and analyzed most of them—more than 30 mobile application stores altogether. At this point, the stores can be classified as five main groups, depending on their owners (see Exhibit 2). 1.  Vertically integrated OEMs: These are app stores owned by OEMs that have built a vertically integrated proprietary ecosystem— that is, a combination of device, platform, and application store. These stores serve applications

that work exclusively with devices manufactured by the OEM. Examples include Apple’s App Store, RIM’s BlackBerry App World, and Palm’s App Catalog. 2.  Platform providers: These app stores are owned by companies that have developed mobile platforms for use on third-party handsets, like those made by HTC, LG, and Samsung (Google recently also started to sell its own mobile phone, Nexus One). These app stores serve only the devices that run a specific operating system, such as Android or Windows Phone 7. Examples include Google’s Android Market and Microsoft’s Windows Marketplace for Mobile.


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3.  Non–vertically integrated OEMs: These app stores are owned by device makers that rely on thirdparty operating systems (e.g., Windows Phone 7 and Android). In some cases these app stores carry apps from both the OEM and the platform provider. Examples are

LG’s Application Store and Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow. 4.  Carriers: These app stores support one or more platforms used on the devices sold by the carriers. Examples include AT&T MEdia Mall, Verizon’s V Cast, and Vodafone’s 360.

5.  Independent stores: These app stores are owned by independent players that do not have direct interests in other parts of the ecosystem—devices, platforms, or carriers. Independent stores are typically owned by smaller companies and in most cases are

Exhibit 2 Mobile Application Store Players

Store Owners & the Value Chain Wireless Connectivity Vertically Integrated OEMs Platform Providers Non–Vertically Integrated OEMs Carriers Independent Stores Device Software Platform Storefront

Presence on the value chain

Source: Booz & Company analysis

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evolutions or spin-offs of “preApple” application stores, which previously offered ringtones, games, and wallpapers. These stores are offered directly to end consumers under the owners’ brands, but are also often whitelabeled for carriers or OEMs. Examples include GetJar, Handmark, and PocketGear. Many of these app stores are attempts to get a foot in the door of

a nascent market, with no apparent strategic intent. Apple’s App Store and Android Market, however, are among the market leaders. They have each created a strong brand and momentum with both end-users and application developers, which kicks off a virtuous circle: End-users are attracted to the devices and/or platforms by a compelling user experience and wide availability of applications; developers have strong incentive to develop applications for the platform

and app store because of the large user base, the favorable business model, and the quality of the platform (upload, merchandising, payment, etc.). As of April 2010, Apple’s App Store carried an astonishing 185,000 applications, and since its launch in 2008, users have downloaded more than 4 billion apps (see “What’s in an App?”). Google’s Android Market is growing quickly, with about 40,000 applications and 400 million downloads as of April 2010.

As of April 2010, Apple’s App Store carried an astonishing 185,000 applications, and since its launch in 2008, users have downloaded more than 4 billion apps.


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What’s in an App? Smartphone users are willing to pay more for a phone and a data plan than traditional mobile phone users. They are also two to three times more inclined to use data services, including applications. Approximately three-quarters of the applications offered on Apple’s App Store require a small download fee, most between 99 cents and $1.99. Apple’s 2009 revenues from mobile applications are estimated at about $300 million. But what kinds of apps are people buying? The vast majority of apps that are sold are entertainment-oriented, from games to multimedia to applications like Shazam, which can listen to a song—on the radio, for example—tell you the name of the song and the artist, and give you the option to download the music for a fee (see Exhibit A).

Exhibit A The App-etite for Entertainment
Global Market for Mobile Apps (Downloads, Advertising & Value-Added Services) $7.1 $10.1 $14.3 $19.7 $26.7 $36.2 $40.7 Percentage of Revenue by Category; Totals in $US Billions 50% 47% 47% 46% Games Lifestyle & Healthcare Education & Reference Multimedia & Entertainment Finance & Productivity Social Networking

63% 77% 4% 2% 31%


5% 2% 33%

6% 3% 33%

7% 4% 31%

8% 5%

3% 1% 2% 1% 16% 1% 3% 2008A 26% 3% 4% 2009E


4% 5% 2010E

5% 6% 2011E

5% 6% 2012E

5% 5% 2013E

5% 5% 2014E

Application Categories Category Games Lifestyle & Healthcare Education & Reference Multimedia & Entertainment Finance & Productivity Description - Various types (action, arcade, puzzle, card, “casual”) - Wellness (calorie trackers, pedometers), lifestyle (location-based search), navigation, news & infotainment, photography, travel - E-books, language courses, encyclopedias, IQ tests, atlases, other educational aids - Apps that facilitate streamed media playing on the handset (radios, TV players, virtual musical instruments, interactive screensavers) - Currency converters, tax calculators, budget management, mobile banking, etc. - Personal management, typing tutorials, document readers, spreadsheets, spell checkers, etc. - Apps that facilitate access to & interaction with social networking sites (Facebook, IMs, Tweetie)

Social Networking

Source: Booz & Company analysis

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There is significant money in the mobile application store market. Even though about 80 percent of applications downloaded by consumers are free, global revenues from downloads still reached $5 billion in 2009, a pool of money that is shared by app store owners and developers (see “Sowing App Seeds”). And Ovum predicts that the number of application downloads will grow from 2 billion in 2009 to 30 billion in 2014. But this increase in the revenues generated by application downloads will be supplemented by those generated from innovative services and business models built around mobile apps. These services will evolve quickly in the coming years and will add an important new dynamic to this nascent market. In fact, we estimate that the mobile application market will reach $40 billion in 2014, with the majority of those sales coming from advertising and value-added services: Advertising: The overall U.S. mobile advertising market, which includes all

forms of advertising (SMS, browsers, applications, etc.), will grow at about 40 percent a year, reaching $3.3 billion in 2013. Mobile advertising in applications will grow along with the overall market, and the leading players are positioning themselves to profit from it. Google is building its mobile strategy around advertising, and in 2009 the company acquired AdMob, a global leader in mobile advertising, for $750 million. In April 2010, Apple unveiled its own mobile application advertising platform, iAd. Value-added services: App stores and application developers will increasingly offer innovative valueadded services and introduce new business models in their applications. In addition to a fee for downloading, consumers could be charged monthly subscription fees (for services such as music, video, and games), eventbased fees (for purchases of tickets to concerts, movies, etc.), and itembased fees (for purchases of additional tools in a game, for example). Apple’s recent decision to finally allow sales of content and services in apps confirms the importance of this trend.

Booz & Company estimates that the mobile application market will reach $40 billion in 2014, with the majority of those sales coming from advertising and value-added services.


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Sowing App Seeds Critical to the success of this market’s growth, and the success of mobile application stores, are the armies of software developers that create mobile apps. Cultivating thriving developer communities, loyal to a device or platform, is crucial to igniting the virtuous circle discussed earlier. And that means developing business models that reward developers for their efforts. Again, Apple has been the pioneer. The company offers a standard revenue split: Developers get 70 percent of the revenues generated by their applications; Apple keeps the remaining 30 percent. For developers, this is significantly more transparent and favorable than in the pre-iPhone world, when it was typical for each developer to negotiate its own deal and get a share of about 50 percent. Most mobile app stores have followed suit, offering similar deals. Some competitors offer even more aggressive deals: RIM returns 80 percent of the revenues to the developers; Google returns 70 percent of revenues to the developers (as does Apple) but gives the remaining 30 percent to the carriers, creating a strong incentive for them to carry Android phones. These deals have prompted numerous, and often very small, developers to create and launch applications, resulting in hundreds of thousands of applications being offered across various mobile app stores. As a consequence, it is very difficult for the single developer to emerge, and few of them earn significant revenues. The stores are in most cases the actual financial beneficiaries.

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The mobile app store market is likely to remain fragmented for the foreseeable future, and it will continue to be a battleground, attracting investment from a wide range of players. This is due to one major factor: Numerous companies are realizing that the market is at the center, or is at least a building block, of a much bigger play beyond the mobile platform. Besides smartphones, consumers are increasingly adopting devices like Netbooks (smaller, lighter, less powerful, and cheaper notebooks), game consoles (like Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation), e-readers (like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook), and tablets (the latest being Apple’s iPad, which sold more than half a million units in the first days after its launch). As such, consumers increasingly expect to interconnect these

devices—including televisions—and access their content and applications seamlessly across them. The most advanced competitors are already creating or enabling the ecosystems that will allow access to content and applications across devices: • Apple has created a suite of proprietary devices (iPod, iTouch, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV) and a proprietary platform (iTunes) to search, purchase, and download content (music, movies, applications). • Cable operators Comcast and Time Warner announced the coming of their TV Everywhere, a service that will give cable subscribers access to premium television content via broadband and eventually mobile connections.


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• Sony, besides offering a wide array of devices (game consoles, mobile phones, readers, and Netbooks), is planning to launch an online store that will sell music, movies, books, mobile apps, and content, all accessible across devices. • Amazon is transforming itself from an e-tailer of third-party physical goods to a provider of complete solutions: It offers its own device (Kindle) as well as those of third parties; content (music, movies, e-books, games) that can be streamed, downloaded, or shipped; and services (software and cloud services). And at the beginning of 2010, it announced the launch of an application store for Kindle.

This content ubiquity and availability across devices will be enabled by a growing—and cheaper—set of cloudbased services. Content, applications, and settings will be stored “in the cloud” and synchronized across devices, facilitating the use of content and applications across devices, time, and location. Because the mobile app store market is the entry point into this broader ecosystem of cross-device applications, competitors will not cede ground willingly. For these reasons, this market will remain fragmented in the medium to long term. The industry’s attempts to standardize application development across platforms or to allow the same

application to work on different platforms (e.g., through a middleware solution) will have limited success. In fact, the leading platforms have the opposite interest and are pushing their own development environments to differentiate themselves. The latest example is Apple’s prohibition against iPhone developers using third-party application programming interfaces, which precludes them from using Flash, a multimedia platform that is popular for adding animation and interactivity. A cross-platform applications model will most likely succeed for light Web-based widgets but will not be used for more complex applications that leverage the system intensively.

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Various strong players—carriers, OEMs, and platform operators—will continue to invest significant resources to win market share and own the relationship with the consumers. While there have been a few early acquisitions—with PocketGear, an independent mobile app store, buying Handango, a struggling competitor— the market still has too many eager and financially strong competitors: Apple, AT&T, Google, Microsoft, RIM, Samsung, and Verizon, to name a few. These companies are facing an interesting dilemma: They all compete with one another in offering their stores and services to consumers, but they need to collaborate to offer their customers the best ecosystem. For example, carriers court OEMs to have exclusivity on the best and most differentiated mobile devices,

and OEMs court carriers to sell their devices. The outcome of this dance will be defined by the relative power of the various players. The end game will also be influenced by the roles and negotiation strategies of the platform players, whose aim is to be installed on as many phones as possible. The stronger Android gets, the lower becomes Apple’s negotiation power vis-à-vis AT&T. In summary, we predict that the mobile app store market will evolve in three conceptual phases (see Exhibit 3): 1.  Device differentiator: Since the launch of the iPhone and Apple’s App Store, app stores have served as a differentiator for mobile handsets and platforms. Besides Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Palm, RIM, and Samsung have

made significant investments in the app store space, with the clear intention of differentiating their devices with a unique user experience and the widest offering of applications. 2.  Network differentiator: The leading carriers are stepping up their ambitions and investments. In April 2010, Verizon launched its long-awaited V Cast Apps, a much improved version of its store that competes directly with the leading players. AT&T is investing heavily in its store and overall cloud offering. And Vodafone has launched its ambitious Vodafone 360 mobile application store. Carriers have always closely controlled the applications and content available over their network, building a “walled garden.” But their objectives here


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are twofold: They want to maintain and build their relationship with end-users, providing key and differentiating services, and avoid becoming a “dumb pipe.” They also want to strengthen their negotiating power with OEMs.

3.  Channel differentiator: In the next couple of years, the application market will continue its extension beyond the mobile platform. Retailers and e-tailers like Amazon and Best Buy will become very important players. Consumers will increasingly

look to these outlets to provide a broad array of devices, applications, content, and services, independent of any one device or platform. This independence and trusted thirdparty status will be a powerful value proposition for the consumer.

Exhibit 3 Evolution of the Mobile Application Store Market

Source of Differentiation Phase 3 Channel Differentiator Phase 2 Network Differentiator Phase 1 Device Differentiator - Apple creates the market - OEMs attempt to replicate Apple’s strategy to build direct customer relationships & create device stickiness - Massive proliferation of mobile app stores - Carriers attempt to exert control over OEMs - “Walled Garden 2.0” - Carrier-OEM “dance” - E-tailers/retailers offer all applications, products & platforms - Agnostic stores fully aligned with consumer interest - E-tailers/retailers continue to take share from carriers & OEMs

Source: Booz & Company analysis




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To succeed in the application market, competitors will need to perform well across various key factors, focused on both consumers and developers (see Exhibit 4). Given these parameters, we foresee three clear winners—Apple, Android, and the leading retailers and e-tailers—with the possibility that the Tier One carriers will also succeed. 1.  Apple: Apple has clearly built a considerable lead in brand, devices, user experience, and ecosystem. Since the launch of the first iPod, each product or service launch has been a major event that attracts the

interest of media and consumers, proving and reinforcing the strength of Apple’s brand. The iPhone has a unique and still unmatched user experience both on the device and at the application store. The platform is solid, is relatively easy to use, and provides the right technical support to developers. Apple is also mastering the entry in adjacent markets. It is a winning player in the mobile application space and will become a winning player in the broader device, application, and content market. Still, its highend positioning and proprietary platform will—deliberately—leave space for other players.

Exhibit 4 Key Success Factors

Consumer Relationship Application Breadth & Quality - Number & variety of apps - Technical performance, compatibility, usability of apps

Developer Relationship Installed Base - Current & forecast installed base of end-users


- Device/platform penetration - Support for “hot” devices - Geographies

Platform Capabilities & Robustness

- Rich media & interactivity support - Easy integration of accessories - Geographic awareness

Merchandising & Discovery

- Presentation, promotion, recommendation - Searchability, ratings & reviews

Technical Support

- Powerful development kit - Support throughout entire software development life cycle - Testing & quality assurance - Expert technical guidance - Content publishing vehicle - Consumer marketing - Connection to carrier billing - Management of royalties

Marketplace Quality & Usability

- System performance - Technical assistance - Interface design & navigation - Transaction capabilities - Customer awareness - Positive image

Storefront Infrastructure


Source: Booz & Company analysis


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2.  Android: Android is currently the fastest-growing smartphone platform and will succeed in the application market thanks to three factors. First, it performs well across all the key success factors: It has a great brand recognized by both consumers and developers; it has reached a critical mass in both applications and users; and the platform is evolved, robust, easy to develop for, and also open source, allowing carriers, OEMs, and developers to adapt it to their needs and fully exploit its potential. Second, the business model is very attractive to both carriers and OEMs: Carriers receive 30 percent of the revenues from application downloads, and OEMs can install the Android operating system for free on their devices (while Microsoft charges $10 to $15 for each OS license). Third, Google is investing a lot of resources: Besides buying AdMob to further develop its presence in the mobile advertising space, it has a very large team of very talented engineers, and it is extending in several adjacencies (devices, tablets, operating systems, TV).

3.  Retailers and e-tailers: Retailers and e-tailers like Amazon and Best Buy are entering the mobile application space and will have a leading role in the development of the overall market. A player like Amazon can leverage key assets: a very strong brand in the e-commerce space that stands for wide choice, unbiased advice, security, and value; strong engineering skills and a platform that can efficiently manage online transactions (search and discovery, download, payment); and wide reach and data on consumers. The majority of consumers will use devices and platforms from a wide set of suppliers. They will seek a retailer or e-tailer that can help them independently identify and purchase the right products, platforms, services, applications, and content, and manage them across all the devices. 4.  Tier One carriers: There is traditionally some skepticism about the capability of carriers to offer advanced, innovative, differentiating, and user-friendly

services to consumers. Carriers have for many years benefited from the largest value pool in the industry—the revenues from voice and, later, data traffic—and have been slow or reluctant to promote disruptive technologies and services. They have leveraged their strengths in the value chain (mainly ownership of the network and relationship with the consumers) in negotiating with third-party service providers, and have been very prudent in adopting innovation. Increasing competition (e.g., mobile virtual network operators and low-cost offerings) and disruptive technologies (e.g., VoIP) are threatening their competitive advantage. Tier One carriers understand that their traditional business model is at risk and are investing heavily in the mobile application space and in numerous adjacencies (fixed line, broadband, cable). They have the capabilities and assets (brand, financial, consumer reach, network) to play a leading role in the application market in the coming years.

The majority of consumers will use devices and platforms from a wide set of suppliers.

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Given the importance of app stores to the overall consumer technology market, it is not surprising that every OEM and carrier wants to have its own store. As a result, there will be a great deal of market positioning and more than a few delicate dances between carriers and OEMs over the coming years. As always, carriers will try to impose their will on OEMs, and OEMs will look for a more direct route to the customer. In the end, however, the OEM app stores will fail. Carrier stores will fair only slightly better, leveraging their powerful customer relationships. And Apple and Android will continue to lead.

The surprise beneficiaries, however, will be the retailers and e-tailers. As the ecosystem continues to become more complex, with multiple devices, platforms, and applications to choose from, retailers and e-tailers will serve as trusted advisors. They will help consumers sift through their choices and assemble the best combinations of devices, platforms, and apps. Their neutrality, and their breadth of offerings, will drive consumers to them and build a trusted relationship. The key for all other players throughout the consumer technology ecosystem will be to understand what their role will be when mobile apps begin expanding onto other platforms and devices—and begin positioning themselves for that inevitability now.


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About the Authors George Appling is a Booz & Company partner based in Houston. He primarily advises telecom operators, device manufacturers, and retailers. His focus areas include marketing and branding, sourcing and supply chain transformation, organizational improvement and change management, and retail strategy. He has recently worked and developed expertise in the mobile application space. Giulio Pappalardo is a Booz & Company senior associate based in Los Angeles. He specializes in growth, sales and marketing, and technology strategies. He primarily serves telecom operators, device manufacturers, and retailers.

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