Operator mobile app push sets timeline

More potential users will let operators compete with Apple and Google

The first applications based on the work done by the Wholesale Applications Community will arrive in February next year, but meanwhile developers can get to work in September, the organization said Wednesday.

In February 24 mobile network operators, including AT&T, China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Telefónica, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, announced the Wholesale Applications Community. The group aims to let developers create applications that can be sold in all the members' application stores and run on high-end smartphones and cheaper phones.

Before the first applications arrive, the Wholesale Applications Community will open for business as a non-profit organization in July. The operators are of course not doing this for altruistic reasons, they also want revenue from the growing sales of mobile applications.

The Wholesale Applications Community in July will be ready to talk more about business models, including how revenue will be shared.

In September, developers will be able to start working on applications, according to Tim Raby, interim CEO of the Wholesale Applications Community and CEO of the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP). Whether the complete Software Development Kit (SDK) will be ready by then is too soon to say, Raby said. The first developer event is scheduled for November.

The first applications won't be available from all the members, but enough to prove the concept, according to Raby.

The Wholesale Applications Community isn't developing a new platform. Instead, it will initially build on technology from Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) and OMTP, which have developed specifications for Web-based widgets, and GSM Association's OneAPI, which is about simplifying access to features in operator networks.

The Wholesale Applications Community's choice of a Web-centric approach comes with both advantages and disadvantages. There is no doubt that a native environment where the applications are tied very closely to the hardware will get better performance, but that approach can't compete with the scale that a Web-centric approach offers, according to Raby.

"I personally don't believe that this technology is going to support absolutely every application, in the same way that the iPhone does. But the thing is, if you can go and hit a whole range of different people with a slightly less good service, then that's good enough for many people. That's the history of the Web," Raby said.

A big question looming over the Wholesale Applications Community is whether the operators can make this work. Operators must set consistent pricing models and terms and conditions across multiple operator stores, a key component if developers are to take advantage of the scale that has been promised. The Wholesale Applications Community is fully aware of developer concerns and issues, according to Raby, but isn't ready to address them before the planned announcements in July.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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