Sprint Corp. will be among the first customers to take advantage of new software IBM introduced last week to help wireless carriers provide better service to enterprise customers.
WESD (WebSphere Everyplace Service Delivery) is carrier-hosted middleware that provides a common services environment for voice and data applications. The suite is designed to reduce complexity and operational costs for service providers that are not application developers or providers by nature, said IBM officials in Somers, N.Y.
WESD should encourage carriers to take advantage of third-party content and encourage third-party developers to design applications around existing carrier services, officials said.
Sprint is planning to use IBMs software to offer location information to enterprise software developers, targeting customers ranging from real estate agencies to emergency road service companies. Sprint officials in Overland Park, Kan., said services will begin this month.
Due this month, Sprints location services will be sold to business customers initially. With the IBM software, corporate application developers will also have access to Sprints APIs for presence and messaging, officials said. Noting the privacy issues inherent in LBS (location-based services), officials stressed that clients will have to opt in individually.
Sprint officials acknowledged that it has taken carriers a while to realize the importance of third-party partnerships.
"Sprint decided that were a carrier and its important for us to have key relationships with application developers that we dont have in those spaces," said Hugh Fletcher, product manager for Sprints Business Mobility Framework and Sprint Location-Based Services division.
But while WESD offers a standard platform to developers, it does not keep carriers from tweaking the software.
"Even with standard development platforms, they still implement features uniquely within their environment," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "That limits the ability of software developers to build cross-operator solutions, leaving us in a state where progress remains slow."
IBM officials acknowledged the problem but said carriers have been responsive to IBMs complaints about noncompliance issues.
"Weve come across that as weve done enterprise developer work," said Letina Connelly, IBMs director of strategy for pervasive computing. "What weve found is that [the carriers] are prepared to negotiate."
The Java-based software suite comprises four basic parts: Mobile Portal, Device Management, Subscriber Management and Telecommunications Application Server.