App Stores Everywhere! Opera Opens Mobile App Storefront

When Pocketgear changed course recently and announced it was going to be a white-label app store provider for other companies called Appia, I said we should be prepared for an app store onslaught. Well, it appear it may be starting now with Opera opening the Mobile App, a web storefront where 100 million Opera browser users will be able to buy apps.

Opera said the store will be a Speed Dial link in the Opera Mini and Opera Mobile browsers and will offer apps for Android (s goog), Symbian (s nok), BlackBerry (s rimm) and Java (s orcl). The number of apps available will vary according to the end device, with the store only presenting apps that work on that phone. Users will get a tailored store experience that includes local language and currency support, too. By leveraging Appia, Opera will have the ability to offer some 140,000 Appia apps on various platforms and will be able to boast its own store with minimal effort.

As I said earlier, the app market is booming with some projecting off-deck app markets eclipsing native app stores in revenue by next year. Forrester Research recently turned heads by predicting the mobile app market will be worth $38 billion by 2015. That’s a staggering sum, considering Apple’s App Store has generated a little less than $3 billion since it opened in July of 2008, with developers taking $2 billion so far. But it shows there’s a lot of optimism in app stores.

Opera is clearly angling to get a piece of the pie by extending beyond simply providing a mobile browser to being a purveyor of content. It’s hoping to leverage its existing reach in 200 countries, which gives it a leg up in competing for eyeballs. Opera said a pre-launch of the Opera Mobile Store in February attracted more than 15 million users, who racked up more than 700,000 downloads per day.

With everyone rushing to create app stores, I don’t know if anyone but a handful will get the kind of traffic needed to be really successful. The ones that simply resell and don’t create much value for developers or consumers may not see much success. Opera is trying to build relationships with developers through the Opera Publisher Portal, which is meant to make it easy for developers to upload their apps. But unless developers see a lot of money-making opportunities to warrant supporting additional stores, many will concentrate on the destinations that command attention and are willing to promote and market their apps, not just try to make some money off of them. And unless consumers of these stores get exclusive apps, better security, improved discovery or cheaper pricing, I’m not sure many will spend a lot of time in these markets. It’s not proving easy to make a store. The challenge now is ensuring its equipped to compete.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d):