Twilio launches marketplace, opens APIs to third parties, forges programmable wireless pact with T-Mobile

Twilio sees itself as a communications platform and is backing up its ambitions by collaborating with third parties including IBM's Watson unit.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

A look at Twilio's Marketplace for developers.

Twilio is moving to expand its ecosystem by launching a marketplace for add-ons and opening APIs to third parties such as IBM's Watson unit. The company also launched programmable cellular connections via a partnership with T-Mobile.

The news comes amid Twilio's Signal developer conference in San Francisco. Twilio provides cloud-based communications, video, voice and SMS services. Twilio's service can be integrated into applications.

For Twilio, the expansion of its Marketplace will come via Twilio Add-ons, which are an easy way to use preintegrated modules for their applications.

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"We've always envisioned having a marketplace since it's key to allow developers to do more and get the most leverage from the code they write," said Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson. "The marketplace accentuates our role as a platform."

Add-ons will be used to enhance Twilio applications for things like sentiment analysis, transcription and analytics. Developers will also publish and sell Add-ons to Twilio's 1 million registered developers. IBM's Watson unit, Wolfram Research, WhitePages Pro and Payfone are among the early partners.

Lawson said some use cases would be "phone number intelligence" where an application could see a robo caller was on deck or someone on a do not call list was being pestered. Messages could also be analyzed.

Under the Add-on program developers can access third party tools via the Twilio API with the same billing, framework and authentication tools. Twilio will offer a catalog of vetted add-ons, one-click integration and pay-as-you-go pricing.

As for Twilio Programmable Wireless program, the general idea is that developers can program cellular networks into their apps quickly. The APIs for wireless service will be used to customize service and offer Internet of things tools.

Lawson said developers will be able to program their own mobile carrier with rules and their own SIM cards that would be shipped to customers. A company could program how voice, data messaging works and Internet of things use cases. "There are great use cases for BYOD (bring your own device)," said Lawson.

Developers and enterprises will have more ability to customize with carrier service and attached tools.

Internet of things pricing starts at $2 per SIM a month and data usage is 10 cents per MB metered across devices. High-bandwidth pricing starts tat $25 for the first GB and $15 for each additional one.

Lawson said Twilio will work with other carriers beyond T-Mobile in the U.S. International carriers will also become partners. "I don't think the world needs another mobile carrier, but the world may need 10,000 micro carriers for industries and company use cases," said Lawson.

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