CDMA telecom operator MTS (Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited) intends to develop an application store for its subscribers, reports PTI (via Business Standard). The report quotes MTS COO (Delhi & Haryana), Shankar Bali, who said that the operator wants to work on the ecosystem surrounding smartphones to offer exclusive apps.

Reaching out to a new segment: While, the CDMA handset market has moved on to embrace the ‘open market handset’ standard, allowing users to choose any of the CDMA networks, telcos like MTS still offer self-branded network locked handsets, specially when they offer EMI schemes or bundle free data. This makes it easy for MTS to pre-embed an application store, or just sideload one through a link, on phones. With low priced smartphones and cheaper data on CDMA, developers would be able to include a whole new segment, making it part of the app economy. But it should also be noted that smartphone platforms also offer their own app stores, so there needs to be differentiation in terms of more localised content, and unique apps. This is where developers could build apps that feature indic content, as well.

Monetization & opportunities: It would be interesting to see how MTS monetizes these apps – whether it chooses a pay per day model, or an ad supported free model at the customer end, and how it splits the revenue with the developer. Most telcos take a large cut from app revenue on their app stores, making it unviable for developers. The only silver lining for the developers is the push from the telco’s side, aiding discovery, and support for integrated billing, which increases the chances of monetization, since credit card penetration is still very low in India. We feel that operators should make the revenue sharing arrangement more favorable towards developers, if they want their app stores to do well.

Not new for CDMA: Even before the onset of Android, CDMA handsets have had an app ecosystem of their own through BREW and Java midlets. Reliance Infocom (Now Reliance Communications), had apps and services on phones running its customised software. It offered data free for initial customers, gradually moved to a paid model, and had a developer program in place with app contests and initiatives. Even Tata Indicom’s CDMA handsets offered a BREW based app marketplace. The only problem was that the apps were limited in their functionality. Modern app platforms support advanced capabilities such as push notifications, ability to operate in the background and have access to the phone’s hardware, allowing developers to offer unique features.

Why not try a PC app store: We wonder why telcos like MTS, who also offer data dongles for computers, haven’t thought about a PC app store, barring a few online gaming and TV services. Tata Photon had introduced a music service, and some apps but is hardly promoting them. Why not create exclusive desktop apps for local info, news, entertainment and online services? And we’re not talking about co-branded web pages, Video on demand services or anti virus subscriptions. Alternatively, MTS could always look to tie up with Intel AppUp for PC users. Are there any other PC based app stores?