Apple App Store clone wars reach fever pitch

In trying to clone Apple's App Store, the industry is stampeding behind Apple, rather than figuring out diverse ways to deliver different value propositions to customers.

The big news coming out of Sun's JavaOne conference this week is that Sun (soon-to-be Oracle) is trying to outbid Microsoft as the world's biggest photocopier company. ("Redmond, start your photocopiers.")

No, Sun isn't actually building photocopiers but, like Symbian, Microsoft, and others, it is playing catch-up to Apple's App Store with its new Java Store, as The Register reports. The store is intended to be a central repository for Java and JavaFX applications, but it's unclear how it will distinguish itself.

As a consumer, I don't care if an application is built in Java. I just want to know whether it's any good, and whether it will run on my iPhone (Blackberry/Palm Pre/whatever). The Java brand matters to developers--it doesn't matter at all to end users.

Not to be outdone in imitation, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used JavaOne to reassure Java devotees that Oracle's commitment to Java is strong and to drop a hint that Oracle/Sun may get into Netbooks, those ubertrendy devices that everyone is talking about but few are actually using.

Back to the App Store. Or, rather, app stores....

Sun isn't alone in copycat tactics. Nokia is also getting into the App Store clone wars, and Symbian has its own planned app store. Google launched its Android Market, and Microsoft, photocopiers at the ready, is beefing up its Windows Marketplace.

Pretty soon, consumers will have scads of choices of where to buy their applications...and so won't have a clue as to where to buy them.

It's not that application stores are a bad idea. It's just that it's not clear that we need a myriad of them, or that vendors will get the mileage from them that they expect, as Joel West points out.

Google Wave showed the industry that innovation is still possible, but requires vendors to discard existing paradigms for what is possible and how to deliver software.

In a similar fashion, platform vendors need to figure out novel ways to emulate the best of what Apple has delivered in its App Store, but reinvent the concept for their own customers. We don't need App Store clones. We need new ways of delivering and consuming applications.

Unless the industry is ready to declare Apple the sole source of inspiration, then different vendors should pave different paths.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

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