WAC Aims at the App Store -- and Even Bigger Challenges

Carl Weinschenk

The fast emergence of new technologies creates a tenuous situation. On one hand, ecosystems-groups of federated companies -- seek to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. On the other hand, too much differentiation leads to substantially different underlying platforms and fragmentation. This slows down, and even limits, overall progress.

A good analogy is to the early days of the train industry. If each group of engine builders-and the equipment manufacturers and vendors that worked with them-didn't settle on some basic standards, such as track gauges, the industry would not have thrived. The tension between cooperation and competition also was evident in the early days of the telephone industry. At that point, networks didn't trade traffic and business people had to have different phones on their desks for each network their customers used.

Clearly, a certain amount of cooperation is in the general interest and a sign of maturation. A nice step in that direction was taken at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. More than twenty wireless companies-mostly carriers-are creating the Wholesale Applications Community. The idea is to create a set of common open standards that will enable developers to write applications once for use on any network, device or operating system.

The initiative, at least in the opinion of the writer of this Guardian piece, is a competitive strike against the iPhone App Store. That's certainly true, but the bigger picture-the desire to create a single marketplace that reaches 3 billion subscribers-is far more important. The future is much brighter if it is possible for people to use applications on a more indiscriminate basis.

The opposing point of view is presented at TechCrunch.
Indeed, the headline of the article: "The Wholesale Applications Community Sounds Like A Disaster In The Making" makes it clear where the writer stands. To be fair, reporters often don't write their headlines. The crux of the piece isn't that the WAC will be a disaster, but that it won't achieve its goal.


In essence, the writer thinks fragmentation itself will keep the project from working. The critique is that mobile applications are so complex and networks and devices so diverse that finding a common denominator will tend to limit what the apps can do. He doesn't phrase it this way, but the idea that such commonality will result in a race to a conservative middle ground.


The point is well taken. However, the story implicitly acknowledges that the problem the WAC is aimed at solving indeed exists. Offering reasons why an approach won't work is valuable. The more valuable side of the coin, however, is suggesting an approach that will.

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