The first EU app stores for iPhones explore new business models


The first two third-party European app stores to be announced offer different takes on how these stores might work: the first is a white-label service for enterprise app distribution, the second is an all-you-can-eat subscription deal.

The stores are on the cusp of being introduced now that Apple has been forced to open up to third party app stores and payment systems. It seems likely more such stores will soon open, and it’s interesting these two seem willing to explore new app distribution business models.

For the enterprise: Mobivention

Initially available in Germany, the Mobivention App Marketplace wants to become a safe place from which to download apps for company employees, partners, and customers. 

That means enterprises can distribute their own internally-developed apps and those created by service providers. The focus is on apps used by employees within the company.

This alternative to Apple’s App Store was apparently developed in “close collaboration” with Apple, working in a coding lab at Apple’s European headquarters in Ireland.

“Our goal is to provide companies with an innovative platform that enables them to participate in the growing app business and increase their competitiveness,” said  Hubert Weid, managing director of Mobivention.

The company will provide others with a white-label version of the store that can be customized for individual needs — so a company that wants to build its own app store can use its solution.

While the offer seems interesting, it isn’t cheap. The entry-level package supports a limited number of app downloads and has a set-up fee of 950 Euros, along with a flat-rate monthly fee. The cost rises to 9,950 Euros plus a monthly fee for unlimited downloads.

At that price it seems likely the proposition will appeal to a relatively limited market. It is, however of potential interest to enterprises pondering how to create their own unique employee app portal.

The app subscription service: SetApp

Scheduled to launch in April, the second business proposition of what may turn out to be a wave of App Store alternatives in Europe comes from SetApp.

Mac users might already be familiar with SetApp, which offers subscription-based access to a collection of third-party Mac apps for $9.99/month. That’s the model Setapp is following for its iPhone app store, where it will offer a “carefully selected assortment of apps, including fan favorites from the Setapp catalog.”

“We are setting a new path for the software industry towards a better and more diverse app ecosystem. This will offer customers more choices and a better overall user experience,” said Oleksandr Kosovan, CEO and founder of MacPaw.

Those interested in access to Setapp Mobile can join the waitlist

In the long term

I’m not especially optimistic for the future of third-party app stores. I think initial proliferation will rapidly be followed by security scares and fast-paced mergers and acquisitions. At the same time, it should be interesting to monitor the more discerning business models that emerge as those may turn out to be real innovators. I’m certain more such stores with a proliferation of new business models will emerge at an epic pace, with or without Epic.

If you are based in the EU and want to make use of a third-party app store in the EU on an Apple device, the user’s Apple ID must be registered in an EU nation and the user must be physically within EU borders. You can also continue to use EU app stores for up to 30 days after leaving the region. After that, your apps will continue to work but you’ll be unable to update them; you should also recognize that Apple will not be able to refund any accidental app purchases.

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