Orange will this month get on the mobile application store bandwagon and launch its own shop, the operator said. At first, the Orange App Shop will be filled with 2,000 games, 500 applications and ringtones, and wallpapers for some Java-enabled phones, according to Christophe Francois, director of multimedia at Orange.

However, plans call for the App Shop to become available on Android-based phones and Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices during the first quarter of next year, putting the shop head to head with already existing application stores for those platforms. Symbian and possibly Windows phones will also be supported in the future, Francois said.

Orange thinks it can attract users to its own shop by offering payment via users' mobile phone bills, so they don't have to register their credit cards with a third party. Also, if users run into problems they can call Orange customer service, he said. Orange also hopes to gain an edge over the competition by featuring apps that include local content, such as those about restaurants and cinemas, on the front page of the store, he said.

The number of applications is far fewer than what's available on, for example, Apple's App Store, which has more than 100,000 apps, or Android Market. But a huge number of applications isn't always a good thing, according to Francois.

"Not all customers are as advanced as the early adopters of Android ... most of them don't need to see 140 weather forecast applications in the application shop. They just need a couple of good ones," said Francois. Also, for developers and content providers it means they are not lost in a sea of applications, Francois said.

He declined to detail how the revenue will be shared between Orange and third party developers. Most of the other big stores take 30 percent, leaving the rest to developers.

The App Shop isn't just for owners of smartphones, the support for Java-enabled phones will bring easy access to applications to the mass market, according to Francois.

The UK and French versions of the shop open their doors in mid-December, he said. Owners of Sony Ericsson's W995, C905, C510, W595, W910i and in France the recently launched Yari, and Nokia's 6700 and 6303, will get access to the store after accepting an over the air update.

In January, Orange will start preloading the App Shop on some of the same phone models. Next year, Spain, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belgium, Austria, Moldova and Portugal will also get their own application shops, according to Orange.

Orange joins a few other operators, including Verizon in the US and Vodafone, in launching its own app store.