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Pocketgear, Handango join to create app store giant

Only Apple and Google now tower over new merged beast

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Independent application stores are usually overshadowed by the vendor-owned ones, but two of them have merged to create a mobile storefront that is larger than any of them, except the Apple App Store and Android Market.

PocketGear has acquired Handango, forming a combined content marketplace with more than 140,000 premium and free titles for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Palm.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. The new company will continue to operate under the PocketGear brand, with its CEO Jud Bowman retaining the top job, while Handango CEO Alex Bloom becomes COO. Handango will join the PocketGear network of direct-to-consumer app storefronts, which also includes SymbianGear.com, AndroidGear.com, RIMGear.com, Smartphone.net and PalmGear.com. The company also supports more than 1,000 developers in selling their software directly from their own web sites.

PocketGear says the two firms have generated more than $400m in mobile application revenues to date, reaching customers in more than 175 countries on over 2,000 mobile device models. Combined, they will have greater scale and will target those carriers and phonemakers that do not want to invest in creating and running their own stores - also a target market for white label services from vendors such as Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm Plaza.

Currently, PocketGear provides the platform behind 40 storefronts, including shops run by Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, RIM, Microsoft and three of the four top US cellcos (not Sprint). The company says it can help operators avoid being dumb pipes by offering them a revenue sharing model.

PocketGear was spun out of Motricity, where both Bloom and Bowman previously worked. Bowman co-founded Motricity and led the acquisition of PocketGear from its parent company in June 2008.

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Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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