Vodafone will open up its network interfaces to developers in a bid to create an app store for web applications that run across a variety of mobile platforms.
The operator announced the move on Tuesday, saying in a statement that releasing its network application programming interfaces (APIs) would "stimulate a new generation of mobile internet applications by providing internet service developers with a single point of access to Vodafone's global customer base".
"Vodafone is making these changes to make it easier for third parties to develop attractive new services as well as bill and support our customers through our network capabilities in all markets," Vodafone's chief executive Vittorio Colao said in the company's statement. "By giving them simple access to our global customer base and network assets, such as direct billing and location awareness, we will help them to make more money while providing our customers with the innovative services that they want."
The web applications, which will take the form of widgets, will work across different mobile platforms due to a "new layer of management technology based on service-oriented architecture", Vodafone said in its statement.
The first APIs to be released will cover location and billing and will come out this summer in a software development kit (SDK) provided by the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL). The initiative was set up by Vodafone, China Mobile and Japan's Softbank in April last year to develop a common global development platform. The American operator Verizon also joined the JIL in April this year.
The idea behind opening up the network APIs is for each of Vodafone's various operators to roll out their own app stores. The applications will be centrally supplied to the operators by the Vodafone group. By the end of this year, the first wave of such app stores will go live through Vodafone's operators in the UK, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands and Italy.
More of Vodafone's operator companies — those operators in whom Vodafone has a majority shareholding — around the world will come 'online' within 18 months, a spokesman for the operator group told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.
Although the point is for the applications to work across various software platforms, Nokia Series 60 would be the first and only platform to initially go live, Vodafone's spokesman said. "We are open to working with any handset operator to get the system running across the broadest possible range," he added.
Vodafone's spokesman said the attraction for application developers would lie in the "extra
functionality" that can be accessed through Vodafone's network APIs, instead of developing for the global iPhone, Nokia, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile or Android app stores.
"Developers will be able to create a different kind of app through...