The most popular alternative iPhone app store, Cydia, has bought up its nearest competitor to provide a single alternative to the iTunes app store.
The Rock Your Phone app store will run down over the next 10 days, during which time Rock users will have to set up a Cydia account to which their purchases can be migrated. Then the Rock store will then cease to exist, though some are hoping that Rock's technology will find its way into Cydia along with its customers.
Both Cydia and Rock provide alternative application stores for iPhone users willing to jailbreak their handsets; allowing the installation of non-Apple-approved software. Both stores have achieved some commercial success (Rock alone bringing in more than $3.3m in the last 18 months) so consolidation makes sense as competing alternatives are more likely to drive away customers than attract them.
That's certainly the opinion of Cydia, as expressed in the FAQ which explains that there were never meant to be competing stores: "Unfortunately, due to some early miscommunication... we ended up spending most of our time competing with each other over the course of the last two years."
Jailbreak stores provide iPhone users a route out of Apple's controlled environment. They list applications that Cupertino wouldn't allow, as well as providing a service for those developers ideologically opposed to Apple's dictatorial stance. But Apple's stance has softened lately, and some of the killer apps that brought users to the Jailbreak stores (such as Google Voice) will soon be available in iTunes.
Commercial details of the merger haven't been released, but Rock claims more than two million registered users and sales of more than half a million apps, so there's clearly money in being an outsider app store as long as there are those unhappy with taking orders from Apple. ®