There are many reasons to think that Verizon's reported plans to spearhead a new kind of app store will fail.
This morning, The Information wrote that Verizon is hoping to work with operators around the world to build a new app store for Android phones. The report is unconfirmed.
Most people are skeptical that such an initiative will be successful, with good reason. There have been many failed attempts at building new app stores -- even a couple by Verizon. The operator only shut down its own app store in January 2013.
Despite the historical failures, I'm hopeful that Verizon has at least some success. Even if the effort itself fails, if it manages to light a fire under Google and Apple, we'll all win. Since the operators have some unique capabilities, there's at least a chance that will happen.
There's certainly a lot of room for improvement in the app stores. Sure, Apple's App Store was a great invention -- before the App Store, people seldom downloaded apps because it was so complicated. Remember when app stores from the likes of Nokia showed you apps that didn't actually work on your phone?
But it's time for an update. When was the last time you actually shopped for new apps? I hardly ever visit the App Store to see what's new. I go there to download a specific app that I've already decided I want.
That's because the shopping experience sucks. Nobody wants to scroll through lists by category.
Without any real competition, Apple and Google have little reason to improve their stores. They're still selling loads of apps and earning their cut.
But if a band of global operators manages to steal some sales, Apple and Google will take notice.
The Information story says that Verizon's store could recommend apps to people based on their location, time of day, and what their friends are doing, according to a FierceWireless story.
That actually sounds a lot like the Ovi Store that Nokia ran for a while. Back in 2009, Nokia launched a social component in its store so that users could see what apps people in their contacts list had recently downloaded. They could also see content like videos that friends had downloaded.
The Ovi Store ultimately didn't take off. It may have been poorly executed. It was also available at a time when the bulk of Nokia's phones were feature phones -- perhaps not enough people had the chance to use it.
But that kind of feature that offers users apps their friends are downloading or that predicts the kind of app they might want, is appealing.
FierceWireless also notes that carriers like Verizon have a bit more leeway to make special offers than Google and Apple. For instance, an operator could deliver the data required to use an app for free for a limited time or in conjunction with certain rate plans.
I hope Verizon succeeds in building a new kind of store and that it manages to offer some unique capabilities. If anything, it could offer enough of a competitive threat that Apple and Google might start adopting any successful features -- like predictive recommendations or social features -- it ends up developing.