Cellcos get WAC on OS fragmentation

John C. Tanner
11 Mar 2010
00:00
News
Commentary

Another year, another Mobile World Congress, and if we learned anything this year, it's this: everyone is concerned about the fragmentation of device platforms.

Except for the actual platform developers, of course. A number of them made it quite clear that whatever you think about platform proliferation, they're not going anywhere.

Take RIM chief Mike Lazaradis, who spent his opening keynote praising the superiority of BlackBerry's "super apps" - i.e. customized premium apps that integrate more deeply into your services.

Dr Ho Soo Lee, EVP of Samsung's Media Solution Centre, topped that by describing Samsung's new Bada platform as enabling the "democratization" of smartphones, then argued that Bada wouldn't contribute to market fragmention because it would sell like hotcakes.

Then we had Nokia and Intel combining their respective Maemo and Moblin platforms into MeeGo, which technically counts as consolidation of a sort but still won't replace Nokia-owned market leader Symbian, which released it first open-source version the same day. Meanwhile, Google's Android made the scene with a slew of new handset releases, while Microsoft released Windows Phone 7. Apple wasn't there, but as often as the iPhone got namedropped during the keynotes, the panels and pretty much everywhere else in Barcelona, it didn't need to be.

So, no - none of these platforms are going to fall by the wayside or crumble in defeat for a long time. Which really shouldn't be news to anyone - platform fragmentation has been a problem since the early 00s in one form or another. That's why the Open Mobile Alliance was created in 2002. What's changed is that the focus of mobile content has expanded from MMS and browser-based content to apps and widgets that are currently locked to smartphone OSs.

Otherwise, the dilemma remains essentially the same - how to help apps developers bridge those platforms without hindering the competition that those platforms arguably need to stay innovative.

Which is why the GSM Association has stepped in with initiatives designed to deal with the fragmentation problem by empowering cellcos, including the OneAPI initiative that unifies network-based APIs for things like messaging, billing and location-based services, and the recently announced Wholesale Apps Community (WAC). This features 24 operators and several handset makers (LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson) at launch, aiming to combine the efforts of JIL and OMTP to create a single community for widget developers.

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