One of the hot topics at this year's Mobile World Congress was apps. The good news: consumers want them and will even pay money for them. The bad news: they're locked into mobile OS platforms that are fragmenting the market for developers - a situation that the mobile industry had been laboring to avoid via organizations like the Open Mobile Alliance.
The day before the congress opened, the GSM Association announced a solution to the problem: the Wholesale Application Community (WAC), a group of 24 cellcos (including Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, KT, NTT DoCoMo, Softbank Mobile, SingTel, SK Telecom and Vodafone) and device makers LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. WAC vowed to tackle the fragmentation problem, starting with widgets based on specs the developed by JIL (Joint Innovation Lab) and OMTP (via its BONDI standard), with the intention of combining those widget framework standards into a common spec. But as the ink was still wet on the WAC agreement, details were sparse on how this would actually be achieved.
Last month, the GSMA and WAC offered some more details on their plan ... but not much more. They delivered a timetable - the official WAC company will be established and its board elected in July; the SDK, materials and documents will be made available for developers in September; its first developer event will be staged in November; and WAC will officially open for business at the next Mobile World Congress in February 2011.
WAC also confirmed the JIL/BONDI widget consolidation plan, as well as plans to incorporate the GSMA's OneAPI initiative into the framework, and a revenue sharing business model for everyone in the value chain - from the developer to the retailer and the cellco - and WAC itself, although WAC will operate strictly on a non-profit basis.
What all that adds up to is mobile widgets and web apps enriched with network APIs. Or, as WAC interim chief and OMTP CEO Tim Raby put it: "The ubiquity of the Web is a core starting point to the write/submit once, deploy/sell everywhere scenario that developers have been asking for a long time."