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Telecom companies take on Apple

A banner advertises the 2010 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: Cell phone makers are about to dial up the competition. The Mobile World Congress kicked off today in Barcelona. And telecom companies from around the world are unveiling their new ideas for the half-a-trillion dollar industry. More than two dozen of them announced plans to create a common site for mobile phone applications.

As Marketplace's Stacey Vanek-Smith reports, they've all got one rival in their sights.


APPLE AD: If you want to check snow conditions on the mountain, there's an app for that, if you want to check how many calories are in your lunch, there's an app for that.

There's also an app for setting your TiVo, tuning your piano, checking surf conditions, and figuring out how much to tip. The Apple store has about 150,000 apps. More than 99 percent of all app sales last year went to Apple.

JEFF KAGAN: It's incredible how quickly it's growing, that's an enormous revenue opportunity for Apple and all the app makers.

The app market is expected to be worth nearly $7 billion this year. Telecom analyst Jeff Kagan says that's got lots of carriers and handset makers hoping to get a piece of the app action. So today, Verizon, China Mobile, Sony and others announced they are teaming up to create an app store that could be accessed by dozens of different devices.

Kagan says it's a smart move.

KAGAN: On their own, it would have been harder. Together I think their chances of being successful are probably as good as Apple.

But even their combined three billion customers aren't going to be enough to take the app out of Apple says Rene Ritchie, editor of TIPB -- an iPhone blog.

RENE RITCHIE: You have two dozen of the biggest telecommunications companies in the world, to get them to all agree to an open standard, and all of the devices will have to be compatible. It's going to be a bit of an uphill battle for them.

Ritchie says because Apple controls all of its content, it can make sure all of its apps are user friendly, something that will be harder for a diverse group of companies.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.
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This is a good start, but the more important question is: will users be able to install apps they write themselves?

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