Opera is best known for its mobile browser, but it's also becoming a bigger name in applications of all kinds. A week after it announced it would take over Nokia's feature phone apps, the company is launching a separate white-labeled app store designed to help operators get their cut of the action too. (See Eurobites: Opera Gets Call From Microsoft.)
Last month, the browser developer announced support for zero-rating -- or apps whose usage don't count against data plans -- in its browser extension, but today's update puts a new spin on apps. Now, through Opera's Subscription Mobile Store, wireless operators can offer their customers a branded mobile store with thousands of apps available for a weekly subscription fee. (See Opera Takes Skyfire Horizon Global.)
This is different from Opera Software ASA 's consumer-facing Mobile Store on its Mini, Android, iOS and Windows Phone browsers, which it says has become the third-largest app store in the US. It does, however, use the same infrastructure and pulls from the same catalog of more than 300,000 apps. (See Opera Claims Record Mobile Growth in December.)
Working with the operator, Opera will populate their store with a selection of those apps that consumers can access for a weekly subscription fee. Opera is offering a free seven-day trial followed by a "small weekly fee" that's charged on the carrier bill and says it will constantly refresh what apps are available. The browser company does all the heavy lifting and manages work with developers for the store, as well as provides operators with data on how it's performing each week.
Why this matters
Operators have been trying to get their cut of the app scene since Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) popularized it on the iPhone. While they've long had their own app stores and service offerings, they've largely been overlooked for the App Store and Android Market, causing most to discontinue their own efforts. But now they want back in, and they are exploring everything from zero-rating app usage to leveraging their network assets to improve apps to working with other operators for cross-carrier apps to new ways of bundling the billing like Opera's proposing.
Subscription app bundles have already proven popular in Asia. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), for one, is experimenting with with the subscription model in the US with a $5 per month plan that it started in August. If done well and, importantly, not forced on consumers, Opera's model could get operators a piece of the action even if it doesn't become the consumer's primary way of accessing content.
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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading