@MWC – Apps developers get path to three billion customers

Apps developers will be able to reach three billion mobile handset users through one wholesale apps store, following an announcement at the Mobile Wordl Congrews in Barcelona today.

The  ‘Wholesale Applications Community’ includes America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile,  China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom Austria, MTN Group, NTT Docomo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, VimpelCom, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone and WIND. It also includes Softbank, and is backed by the GSM Association.

The idea is to create a single wholesale platform for mobile apps with which developers can work, and also to challenge the apps stores that have been created by comanies such as Apple. Operators will sell apps from the  wholesale store through their own retail channels.

Handset makers LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are supporting the initiative.

The alliance plans to start off supporting both the JIL and OMTP BONDI requirements for developing widgets, and then move towards a unified standard within a year.

Alex Sinclair, chief technology office for the GSM Association, said: “This is truly groundbreaking stuff. It’s the first time virtually all the operators have got together to take the same approach. We’ve got very broad support and several companies who are annoyed that they couldn’t get their name onto our official list.”

Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media, said: “I do question whether such a large group of mobile operators will be able to achieve the level of cooperation and integration required to make this initiative a success. Some of these operators (for example AT&T and Sprint) are fierce competitors and have always tried to find ways of differentiating themselves in order to win market share.

“There is also the issue of whether developers will lend their support to the initiative. They are more interested in developing apps for Apple and Android and have historically distrusted operators because of the unfavourable revenues share deals that have been on the table. A number of the developers that we have spoken to would rather operators keep out of the applications development community entirely.”

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