Group Forms Mobile App Clearing House

Charlene OHanlon

Of the many new technologies that have entered the ranks of ubiquity over the years, perhaps none has been as fragmented as the mobile application development space.

For as many mobile phone manufacturers and carriers are out there, each has its own app store, chock full of ring tones, games and other productivity killers or enhancers (depending on the app). But an industry group is saying no more to the siloed approach to mobile app development.

At this year's Mobile World Congress, a global alliance called the Wholesale Applications Community is banding together to create an open standard that developers can use to create applications that are device- and carrier-agnostic. According to the community's Web site, the group aims to establish a simple route to market for developers and provide them with access to a customer base of more than 3 billion people.

Already, leading carriers worldwide have jumped on the community bandwagon, including U.S. carriers AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Handset manufacturers including Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG have also signed up. The group invites all ICT (information and communication technology) vendors to join, including operators and developers, handset manufacturers and Internet players. Only through cooperation, the community said, will the group succeed in creating 'an initiative based on openness and transparency."

'We believe this model presents the most compelling format on the market where developers will thrive and customers will reap the benefits of greater choice,' the group noted on its site.

Such a step is a long time coming in the mobility space. For too long, developers have been hamstrung by the proprietary app dev requirements of individual carriers and handset manufacturers. Apple proved that mobile app development can be highly lucrative; imagine how much more lucrative if those same apps could be if they were available to any mobile device, from iPods to Blackberrys. If the community is successful, it would be only a matter of time.

Apple was nowhere to be found at the Mobile World Congress (as usual-Apple has never played a role at the annual confab) and issued no comment on the Wholesale Applications Community. It will be interesting to see if Apple decides to play nicely and join the group. Based on past experiences, however, my money is on Apple continuing to stay in its own corner of the sandbox.

Not that that's a bad thing; Apple hit upon a winner with its app store, and mobile carriers have never been known for their brotherly love toward one another (AT&T and Verizon are the latest to demonstrate this with their series of 'you lie' commercials), so Apple may be smart to steer clear. It will be something short of a miracle if the Wholesale Applications Community succeeds in its endeavor. In the meantime, things could get interesting.

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