As an alternative to today's most popular application stores, controlled by Silicon Valley heavyweights Apple Inc. and Google Inc., Stephenson touted an emerging system that lets carriers like AT&T sells apps directly to users.
AT&T Inc. was until last week the sole U.S. carrier for the iPhone, which sells apps that run only on Apple devices.
"You purchase an app for one operating system, and if you want it on another device or platform, you have to buy it again," Stephenson said in a keynote speech at the world's largest mobile-phone trade show in Barcelona, Spain. "That's not how our customers expect to experience this environment."
Stephenson highlighted a new standard for Web software, HTML 5, which will allow applications to run on different devices, and the Wholesale Applications Community, which is an "app store" set up by carriers as a counterweight to app stores run by
The Wholesale Applications Community, or WAC, announced its commercial launch Monday. From the point of view of software developers, it acts as one app store. The apps are then sold by a variety of different phone companies around the world, in stores that carry their own brands.
There are as yet few phones that support WAC applications, but LG Electronics Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Ericsson, Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. have committed to making such phones.
The four biggest U.S. wireless carriers - AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA - are all members of WAC. Verizon Wireless started selling the iPhone in the U.S. last week.
Carriers have sold simple applications like games directly to users for a long time, but it's a small business compared to Apple Inc.'s App Store and copycats like Google's Android Market.