On the surface, it seems like an unfair fight — 24 on one. But that’s what it might take some of world’s biggest mobile carriers if they hope to defeat the reigning king of mobile app distribution, Apple.

The carriers have banded together to create the ‘Wholesale Applications
‘. The goal: make it possible for developers to build
applications that work across handsets and carriers. The 24 carriers
participating in the Wholesale Applications Community have three
billion subscribers combined, and the initiative is also receiving
support from the GSMA, which is made up of handset manufacturers LG
Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

According to the GSMA:

The Wholesale Applications Community aims to unite a fragmented marketplace and create an open industry platform that benefits everybody — from applications developers and network operators to mobile phone users themselves.

Initially, the Wholesale Applications Community will employ the JIL and OMTP BONDI standards, with both being merged “into a common standard within the next 12 months“.

Obviously, the fact that some of the world’s largest carriers, from China Mobile to Vodafone, have come together says a lot about how these companies perceive the market. But the success of the Wholesale Applications Community won’t be based on cooperation; it will be based on execution. And on that front, there’s already plenty of healthy skepticism.

The primary target of the Wholesale Applications Community is clearly Apple, but it’s unclear that Apple can be effectively targeted with such an initiative. After all, it’s hard to believe that 24 mobile carriers will be able to “operate more smoothly” than a single company. Apple’s full control over iPhone hardware and software has given it a significant advantage in building up the App Store and creating a superior consumer experience. For the Wholesale Applications Community to succeed, it will not only have to overcome some steep technical hurdles, it will need to create something friendly enough to win over consumers.

That’s a tough task. Perhaps 24 carriers can pull it off, but don’t expect success to come overnight and bet on more than a few fits and starts.

Photo credit: Gonzalo Baeza Hernández via Flickr.