The battle of the mobile apps is officially under way.

Research in Motion's (RIM) new BlackBerry App World store made its debut at the CTIA Wireless trade show in early April, joining Google's Android Marketplace as a challenger to the successful App Store for the Apple iPhone. Soon, Nokia, Microsoft and Palm will enter the ring as well.

With the battle of the mobile app stores now joined, there's bound to be confusion over which apps and platforms are best. And competing platforms will spur developers to come up with multiple versions of their apps to reach the broadest audience possible. But for the overall mobile market, competition among app stores is a net gain.

The App Store revolutionized the mobile market by allowing developers to create iPhone apps and sell them directly to consumers (Billboard, April 4). That eliminated the stranglehold that wireless carriers had on consumer access to such apps. The result has been a surge of creativity yielding more than 25,000 iPhone apps and 800 million downloads.

The Android Marketplace is enjoying similar success. Although limited to T-Mobile's G1 phone, which has sold an estimated 1 million devices, the carrier says each user has downloaded an average of 40 apps. And while the BlackBerry App World opened only recently, it will serve a market of about 50 million devices and expects about 1,000 apps to be available by the end of April.

For developers rushing to create and sell apps on rival platforms, life is about to get...

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