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Move over, Apple: Symbian preps app warehouse

Horizon distribution centre set for October

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The Symbian Foundation has been waxing lyrical about its application warehouse, now titled Horizon, which will be available to all and sundry come October.

Horizon won't be an application store, but is intended to be a warehouse from which application stores can select their stock. The Symbian Foundation will sign applications, support developers, and take care of distributing revenue, but punters won't be able to buy applications direct from Symbian.

The strategy has been announced before: all that's new is the name and launch schedule, with Horizon already opened to selected partners and available to everyone else come October. But the approach is interesting and intended to provide the advantages of Apple's iTunes store, with an openness and competitiveness that Apple's offering lacks.

With its monopolistic application store the iPhone offers unparalleled simplicity and consistency in application development and distribution, and has driven the activity into the mainstream. Creating applications for Symbian could be equally simple, but the flexibility of the platform leads to inevitable complexity as the application publisher must negotiate deals with, and have their application approved by, different retailers - all of whom have their own rules.

Symbian Horizon is intended to simplify that part of the process: an application author gets approval to list their application in Horizon, and retailers such as Ovi and operator stores pick applications from the list to put on their shelves. Publishers who don't like Horizon are free to do deals direct, or sell direct to the public if they so desire.

There was a time when on-line software retailers sold packages for desktop computers too, and a few still exist today, though the majority of software sold over the internet now is purchased direct from the publisher's web site. One can't help wondering if that's the model that will, eventually, come to mobile too, with Symbian Horizon and Microsoft Marketplace being stop-gap solutions while the mobile-software brands become established.

Or perhaps this is a new business model where several layers of intermediation are desirable, though one has to wonder to whom. ®

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