An Honest-to-Goodness App Store You Can Walk Into

Published on December 13, 2011
by Tricia Duryee

Nope, it’s not run by Apple, Google or even Amazon.

A new start-up, Openspace, is launching a physical store where consumers can visit and discover the latest mobile applications.

“If your iPhone has a problem, you take it to Apple. If your Android tablet has a problem, you take it to Verizon, AT&T or Best Buy,” said Openspace founder Robert Reich. “But if you have a question about which camera app would be great for taking pictures this weekend on the slopes, where can you turn?”

To help solve that problem, Openspace opened its first physical storefront last week in Boulder, Colo. Open six days a week, the store is staffed by “App Gurus” who make recommendations and try to eliminate “app-rehension.” (Their joke, not mine.)

Previously, Reich founded Boulder-based OneRiot, which uses social data to make mobile advertising more targeted. The company was acquired by Wal-Mart in September.

Openspace is just getting off the ground, so all the details haven’t been nailed down — like how the operation will make money. But in the next year it hopes to partner with developers to take a percentage of sales that result from applications promoted in the store.

Consumers can also do things the old-fashioned way and visit the company’s Web site to get recommendations. On the site, the company categorizes applications by interests — many of which won’t be found on iTunes — including such nontraditional subjects as Occupy Wall Street, zombies or “games a 10-year-old girl will enjoy.”

Developers often complain about how difficult it is for their applications to be discovered, and frequently pay for advertising or third-party promotion. So it’s possible that a physical app store could be one more way to get the word out.

Whether Openspace will be able to make enough money off referrals to offset the high costs of real estate and full-time staff will be the bigger question.

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