Two telecom operator-backed mobile software groups unveiled a merger plan on Tuesday to counter increasing competition from new rivals Google and Apple for applications.
Uniting the two consortia -- of smaller, more established JIL and wider application alliance WAC -- will let independent software developers reach a large share of members' 3 billion clients with just one version of software.
For most small development houses it would be too costly to create dozens of versions of software to reach each store separately.
Apple's App Store, launched in June 2008, created a market for mobile applications, or small programs, which was worth $4.1 billion last year, according to research firm Chetan Sharma.
WAC -- whose founding members include AT&T, China Mobile, Telefonica and Vodafone -- aims for the first stores using WAC software to open before February 2011.
"WAC, by share scale, will have dominance in the market," Daniel Gurrola, vice president for strategy from France Telecom's mobile Orange arm, told a conference call with analysts and journalists.
Major telecom operators formed the WAC alliance in February to build an open platform that will deliver applications to all mobile phone users, but analysts have been skeptical whether so many operators could work together efficiently.
Also Bharti Airtel, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange and Orascom Telecom are among the founding members of the WAC alliance.
The alliance is supported also by three of the world's largest phone makers -- LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.
JIL groups China Mobile, Softbank, Vodafone and Verizon Wireless-- all of which also founded WAC.
The first phone models using new WAC software would be shown at the Mobile World Congress wireless trade show in February 2011 and reach the market around May 2011, WAC said.
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