Wireless: Walled Gardens to Walled Markets?

T-Mobile, the #4 US wireless carrier, is moving to an App Store model for all its phones.  In other words, users will be able to choose their own applications, as they now do on Apple’s iPhone.  Along with Google Android/Open Handset Alliance, Verizon’s open development initiative, and the success of Apple’s App Store, this is good news for wireless subscribers in the US.  For too long we’ve been stuck with a poor set of apps and features pre-selected by the carriers.

However, a series of walled application stores is not the same as an Internet-like open platform.  Developers still need to go through the bottleneck of Apple’s and T-Mobile’s (and soon, most likely, AT&T’s and Sprint’s and Verizon’s) certification process, pricing policies, and so forth.  Not to mention that we’re just talking about the US here.  The US is a big mobile market, but less than a tenth of the the global handset total.

I’m pleasantly surprised how quickly the major US operators are backing off their policies of tightly controlling handsets and applications.  The question is whether the shift will stop at walled markets, or move toward a truly open environment.