MWC 2010: Time to unite application development - just very, very slowly…
As the mobile industry's annual shindig, Mobile World Congress (MWC), kicks off, some of the biggest operators from around the world have announced an initiative which they hope can hit back at Apple's dominance of the mobile apps world.
At the event in Barcelona, 24 operators - including Orange, O2's parent Telefonica and Vodafone - have clubbed together to create an alliance aimed at delivering apps that work on any mobile phone platform.
The group, which calls itself the Wholesale Applications Community, is aiming to "create an ecosystem for the development and distribution of mobile and internet applications irrespective of device or technology".
The alliance looks to be an attempt to get coders to open up apps to more device platforms. High-end mobile platforms such as Google's Android, RIM's BlackBerry and Apple's iPhone are walled gardens, meaning app developers must create a separate version of their app for each mobile platforms they want it to appear on.
Faced with having to duplicate their development efforts several times, coders may choose only to focus on popular platforms such as the iPhone, giving operators precious little chance to make money from the mobile apps ecosystem - a situation they are doubtless hoping to break with their alliance.
Apple remains the dominating force in the mobile app world - despite having a relatively small share of the handset market, it accounts for the vast majority of mobile app downloads - leaving the mobile operators locked out of a potentially lucrative market.
And with mobile apps predicted to generate $6.2bn in revenue this year, according to analyst house Gartner, it's little wonder the operators are looking to emulate Apple's success.
The first step in the group's plan will be to unite the developer communities of all the operators involved.
The Wholesale Applications Community also plans to develop a single standard for developers within the next 12 months, allowing them to create apps once and port them to any number of mobile devices and "in the future between fixed and mobile devices".
The alliance is comprised of America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind.
It is also backed by mobile makers LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.