Cellcos to create wholesale apps ecosystem

John C. Tanner
16 Feb 2010

Twenty-four operators have banded together with the GSM Association to create a apps community that aims to unite developers with a wholesale ecosystem that offers a single entry point and easy distribution.

The Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) aims to “establish a simple route to market for developers to deliver the latest innovative applications and services to the widest possible base of customers around the world” and “create a single, harmonized point of entry to make it easy for developers to join.”

The 24 operators – which include Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, KT, NTT DoCoMo, Softbank Mobile, SingTel, SK Telecom and Vodafone – represent a base of over three billion users.

GSMA chief technology and strategy officer Alex Sinclair said at a press conference Monday announcing the WAC that anyone is welcome to join, and that more cellcos already have plans to do so.

Device manufacturers LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are also onboard.

The announcement was short on specifics – such as just how WAC would work with existing developer communities or handle revenue sharing splits.

However, Sinclair did say the alliance plans to initially use both JIL (Joint Innovation Lab) and OMTP BONDI requirements, evolving their widget framework standards into a common standard within the next 12 months.

Analyst reactions to the alliance have been mixed. Ovum analyst Tony Cripps cited the current lack of JIL- and BONDI-compliant devices as a stumbling block. Another one is the general wariness of apps developers in working with operators.

“To succeed, the WAC operators will have to overcome the sometimes considerable prejudice that developers have towards operator-driven developer communities for reasons of perceived equitableness, visibility, (in)competence in software matters and various other factors,” he said.

Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media, had similar misgivings. “[Developers] are more interested in developing apps for Apple and Android and have historically distrusted operators because of the unfavorable revenues share deals that have been on the table. A number of the developers that we have spoken to would rather operators keep out of the applications development community entirely.”

Newman also questioned “whether such a large group of mobile operators will be able to achieve the level of cooperation and integration required to make this initiative a success. Some of these operators – for example AT&T and Sprint – are fierce competitors and have always tried to find ways of differentiating themselves in order to win market share.”

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