The world of mobile applications may become even more crowded over the next few months, with 24 telecommunications operators announcing Feb. 15 at the Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona, Spain, that they intend to build an open platform for mobile applications deliverable to a wide range of mobile devices.
Among those operators are AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Vodafone, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom and China Unicom. The alliance bills itself as the Wholesale Applications Community, and claims a customer base of 3 billion people worldwide.
"The Wholesale Applications Community aims to unite a fragmented marketplace and create an open industry platform that benefits everybody-from applications developers and network operators to mobile phone users themselves," the group said in a Feb. 15 news release. "The alliance's stated goal is to create a wholesale applications ecosystem that-from day one-will establish a simple route to market for developers to deliver the latest innovative applications and services to the widest possible base of customers around the world."
In a statement, IDC analyst Jonathan Arber wrote, "Attracting and retaining developers is vital for any application store offering to succeed. However, mobile application developers currently face a high level of fragmentation in the industry, in terms of both technology platforms and individual operators' working practices."
Arber added, "Developers want to meet the largest possible addressable market as effectively and painlessly as possible, and the Wholesale Applications Community initiative can meet these criteria by providing a simple, single point of access to a large number of operator storefronts."
The group said it "plans to initially use both JIL and OMTP BONDI requirements ... [combining] these standards into a common standard within the next 12 months." Additionally, the alliance said it will work with the W3C to create that standard.
In many ways, the announcement of an alliance seems a deliberate counter to the rise of closed ecosystems for mobile applications, such as that of Apple's iPhone. Such ecosystems can lock developers into offering a product for a restricted line of devices unless they rewrite their code in another language. That may be appealing to developers, but the presence of fiercely competing companies within the alliance, notably AT&T and Verizon, may cause some to doubt its ability to operate as a cohesive body.