Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Operators challenged to make global app store standard work

Tony Cripps, Ovum

Mobile World Congress, 2010, BARCELONA, SPAIN: The Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) – founded by 24 of the leading global mobile telcos and supported by the GSMA and handset OEMs Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG – has tasked itself with the job of uniting the developer communities of its members and building a wholesale ecosystem for mobile application developers, offering a single point of entry and ease of distribution to a total user base of over 3 billion customers.

On the face of it, the logic of WAC seems clear. Most of those 3 billion subscribers are currently denied participation in the rich man’s game of downloading custom-built apps onto high-end handsets, and even converting a small proportion of that number into downloads could reap benefits for operators and developers alike.

However, the question marks over whether it can achieve its goals are sizable. The initiative is dependent, at least initially, on the JIL and OMTP BONDI stacks for its device-side application environment. A common cry in the early days of WAP was “Where are the phones?” A similar issue arises here. Even when JIL- and BONDI-compliant devices hit the market in large enough numbers to overcome this shortfall, will the developers actually care?

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. If the 24 operator members of the WAC can overcome those misgivings, they will deserve to bathe in that glory.

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