Thursday, July 16, 2009

Symbian App Warehouse is now Symbian Horizon

In May, Symbian talked about plans to put together a wholesale app store for all its phones and operators. At the time, I suggested that the most descriptive name would be to call it “Symbian App Warehouse” but today it was announced as Symbian Horizon.

Perhaps for Brits the confusion with retailer Carphone Warehouse® (division of Best Buy) is too great, or perhaps it’s part of the forced silliness of Symbian Foundation as part of its efforts to act anti-corporate. Or perhaps they want a unique name (Horizon) and App Store (iPhone), App World (BlackBerry), Market (Android) and Marketplace (Windows Mobile) were already taken.

They’re still promising to do it free (rather than charge a nominal fee), which raises serious questions about how well a non-profit foundation can afford to scale up the evaluation and publishing process.

One way they can keep costs down is to not publish everything submitted. Rather than try to match Apple’s record of 65,000 apps in one year, Symbian sounds like it will be more selective.

Horizon is a publisher program similar to a book publisher or record label. Developers can submit their app or even an idea for an app that they will build. Symbian will select the best apps and help take them to market. We will sign the app, publish it to the App Stores and manage the transactions, all at no cost to the developers. It is a ‘code once, publish to many’ syndication service.
This approach will require more screening and will be subject to complaints about fairness, but (unlike the current Apple organization) the best apps won’t be lost in the clutter.

The devil is in the details, I think it’s a clever idea. Symbian Horizon will provide a common platform for developers (as Apple and Google and others do) while not trying to compete with or bypass the operator and handset maker stores. (Control is a big deal to Nokia, Vodafone, Orange and several other firms).

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