But while app stores may look like a cash cow waiting to happen, Kimbler warns that operators "will have the major challenge of creating a business model and platform that will be easy-to-use and rich enough to attract developers. Only then can they build a robust portfolio of both free and paid applications."
That said, there's no rule saying cellcos have to do the app storefront themselves. They can use white-label app stores from GetJar, Handango and others to save on capex and reduce rollout times. They can also adopt the shopping-mall model to create an environment for retailers to come in and set up whatever storefronts they want. That's what Telstra is doing, and for a simple reason, says CTO Dr Hugh Bradlow: "The real-life shopping center owners I know are extremely rich."
There can be only OneAPI
Another challenge for operator-hosted app stores is that the real attraction for developers is using the network's assets to give their apps more functionality. The problem has been that network APIs can differ from one operator to the next, and apps developers have enough headaches developing apps for all the different operating systems and platforms scrambling for market share without having to create apps geared to every operator's network.
The GSM Association has been addressing that issue with its OneAPI initiative, which uses Aepona's universal service platform to create common representational state transfer (REST) and web service APIs initially for network functions messaging, location-based services and payment under a single developer community.
"OneAPI is a web services tool - whether you're an enterprise developer working in an IT shop or a guy in a basement developing your first app, it's the same set of tools," explains Larry Baziw, director of next-generation services strategy at Rogers Wireless. "One of the goals of OneAPI is to resonate with the developer community and simplifying how you get onboard - a simple sign-up process that you can do in a couple of hours, so you can start to send stuff and get rewarded quickly, use the tools you're accustomed to using."
Aepona CEO Al Snyder touts the ability of the OneAPI reference implementation to give apps a standard way to tap capabilities that can't be replicated on a handset with an over-the-top (OTT) solution by leveraging what Aepona has typically described as network as a service.
"As a developer, imagine the ability to take an enterprise application, maybe at a regional level, maybe in healthcare or oil and gas, and developing an application where you can mash up multiple network capabilities to create a service, then adding things to it like automatic click to conferencing tied to location," he says. "For financial services, for example, it could be credit card fraud prevention, adding location and messaging together at an ATM. That's the kind of service creation environment you have through a carrier via OneAPI."