Who Will Control App Development, Vendors or Service Providers?

Carl Weinschenk

The emergence over the past few years of application stores has radically rearranged the furniture for many in the smartphone sector.

The emergence of these marketplaces, according to this Electronista piece, has shifted control of applications from the carriers to the device manufacturers and made good developers as hot as baseball free agents. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that he would prefer cross-platform development through the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) or HTML5. Coming from a head honcho at AT&T, the call can be seen as self-serving. As the piece points out, successfully breaking down the barriers between OSes gives the carriers far more leverage.

At the same time, it is obvious that it makes little sense for a different universe of applications to be available on Android, iOS, BlackBerry and the others. It also is obvious that software writers shouldn't have to reinvent the development wheel to reach new markets. Indeed, to many, meeting this challenge is one of the most attractive elements of HTML5.

This is not a new issue and cross application platform providers are in a good position going forward as smartphone owners increasingly covet their neighbors' apps. Some recent news:

  • At the MWC, Appcelerator said that it has entered into an agreement with Engine Yard, a Ruby on Rails company, to develop and deploy cross-platform capabilities in the cloud.

  • MobileMarketingWatch says that startup appMobi, which offers what it calls a cloud-based cross-platform native app development tool, late last month announced $6 million in series B funding. The story says that the company's XDK platform uses HTML/HTML5, Cascading Style Sheet and JavaScript to create apps that can be used on iOS- or Android-based devices. Other OSes will be added, the story says.

  • Netbiscuits, which also is plays in this space, has introduced what it calls HTML5+. It appears possible that by using that label the company may be trying to expropriate the HTML label. In any case, the company says that the new product extends its user interface (UI) development framework. The story has details on the product enhancements.

Developer moves quickly become complex. The bottom line is that efforts will be made during the next few years to enable applications to be written once and played across multiple operating systems. The success or failure of these efforts will go a long way toward determining whether vendors or service providers rule the roost.

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