Orange has launched an on-device application store, with transactions being added to the phone bill in just the way the operator Ovi would work 18 months ago.
The Orange App Store will list applications as well as widgets and ringtones, and will come pre-installed on handsets from January in the UK and France, but even those who download the client won't be able to buy music from the Orange Jukebox as that hasn't been integrated.
Orange's application store has been around for a while, but putting it on the device is a significant step, and one made more complicated by the plethora of platforms an operator is obliged to support.
Orange will only be supporting the Nokia 6700 and a couple of Sony Ericsson handsets (the W995 and the French version of the Yari) initially, but over-the-air updates will add the store to the rest of the Orange signature range around the end of the month.
That puts the store into 1.3 million handsets across the UK and France, so now Orange is pitching to developers in the hope they'll have shelves full of content to browse.
Being able to add transactions to the phone bill is an important feature, but it's one that Orange was supposed to be delivering in partnership with Nokia and Ovi. That deal was announced back in May 2008 and was supposed to last three years. We've asked Orange what's become of it and will let you know when we hear back.
But now Orange wants developers to submit their applications, for any device (iPhone excluded, obviously), and Orange will happily test them across devices (if necessary) and split the proceeds. The operator isn't saying what that split is, so we're assuming it's up for negotiation.
Operators are the natural hosts of application stores, and the Orange App Store could tie in nicely with Symbian's vision of a central application warehouse. Other operators will follow suit if they aren't already, taking advantage of their unique ability to integrate billing.
Manufacturers with aspirations of being service providers need to have a unique angle - for Apple that's monopoly control of the app store, for Samsung it's going to be ownership of Bada, but it's hard to see the Microsoft Marketplace or Nokia's Ovi competing with an operator's offering. ®