Best Buy has long been effectively forward-looking in approaches to media/software distribution. -They derive their margins from hardware and accessories, anyway, which makes this an easy choice for them. So, earlier this year, their investment in U.K.’s Carphone Warehouse seemed both in keeping with that spirit and potentially very effective, given Carphone’s success with a variety of unique initiatives. Now, Best Buy has announced a relationship enabling in-store distribution of Handango-aggregated software for mobile phones via store POS terminals. Carphone began something similar with Handango earlier this year, so it’s likely an expansion of that deal. Interesting that they chose to use a third party to enable this sort of aggregation, though; after all, they do have their own buyers, so why bother, but Carphone has been having a somewhat rough year, both in terms of share price and personal issues.
From the press release, it’s difficult to tell what technology is being used for distribution to the handset at BBY, whether over the carrier network or via Bluetooth. A number of years ago at EB, I ran first a test, then a hundred store rollout distributing software to handsets via Bluetooth, and the results were surprisingly successful. Of course, Bluetooth distribution is inherently a problematic kludge. The benefit of in-store distribution to the handset is bypassing the carrier’s tight control of deck placement and revenue share, as well as more effectively merchandising mobile software. But, compared to iPhone Apps Store, Bluetooth is a bit too problematic (handset limitations, largely created by carriers, as well as connectivity issues in many environments), and I think in-store mobile distribution may be past its moment.