Yandex (YNDX) took a double swipe at Google (GOOG) in Russia and other markets by announcing yesterday that it is developing its own web browser and its first app store. The move by the Russian search giant (which currently controls 60% of the Russian search market) underscores the intensifying battle for market share in the overall app ecosystem between the leading worldwide players.
The browser that Yandex released is initially just for the desktop although it will soon be available for mobile users as well. The company already offers maps (Apple recently agreed to partner with Yandex for its Russian maps implementation), Yandex.Drive, a cloud storage solution, Yandex.Music and email. The company is well positioned for multi-platform, i.e. desktop, tablet and mobile, product delivery. Just like Google, Yandex's intention is to sell search and display advertising against all of these product offerings.
"Cloud-based browsing is a next-generation answer to the challenges of the modern internet," said Arkady Volozh, CEO of Yandex, in a statement. "To make the Internet experience faster, easier and safer for everyone, we have built a cloud-based browser that integrates the best of our products and services and is open to other web developers." In terms of Yandex's app store, it appears that the company's efforts are aimed at mobile devices manufacturers who are using so called "forked" versions of Android and thus cannot offer Google's Play app store.
Microsoft (MSFT) is attempting to lure developers to develop apps for Windows Mobile and Windows 8 with its recently announced Windows Azure Mobile Services, which will make it much easier for developers to add a cloud backend to their apps. This will help speed development time considerably by allowing developers to focus on the front end, while utilizing the service on the backend. Just as importantly, this will soon let developers build apps that run on any Microsoft desktop as well as mobile device.
Microsoft's recent deal with Mimvi (MIMV.OB) illustrates that Microsoft is also looking at ways to bring app development, app search and app discovery to the forefront of its mobile and Windows 8 strategies. Mimvi appears well positioned to help Microsoft combine app search with general web search and thus will augment its efforts to make app search and discovery on the desktop, as well on mobile, as easy as possible. Users could conceivably search for apps on their desktops at work and download them for use on their mobile devices.
The worst of Apple's (AAPL) Mapgate fiasco seems to be over now that CEO Tim Cook offered a formal apology last week and even went so far as to suggest that users use third party solutions until Apple sorts out the problem with its own Maps. This apology seems to have placated Apple users. The company's App Store recorded its 5 billionth download in June and has paid out more than $5 billion to its developers since its inception. In June, Cook reported that there are over 400 million accounts on the App Store and of the 650,000 apps available some 225,000 are built specifically for the iPad. He added that there will soon be 32 countries added to the App Store, bringing the total to 155 countries.
With their recent assertive moves Yandex and Microsoft both are both good buys. Despite the recent Mapgate stumble, it is hard not to be long on Apple as well. At $659 at the end of day yesterday, Apple seems a bargain.