WAC as a company is now officially here and – to judge from our coverage of today’s news – analysts are impressed with the progress to date. Company formation, leadership, board and business models have all now been announced, as well as the merger with JIL. Cynicism was rife when the ambitions of the initiative were first mooted twenty-two weeks ago at Mobile World Congress, but to its credit initial timelines have been met.
The major talking point around WAC in Barcelona last February was the fact it had attracted the support of 24 of the world’s largest mobile operators, giving the initiative a major USP (3 billion potential end users and counting…) over rival app store offerings. To date 20 of those operators have contractually committed to the initiative and it is hoped that the remaining four, and others, will soon join the operator-led program that includes such A-listers as Vodafone, China Mobile, AT&T, Telefonica and Verizon.
Operators aside, attention should also be given though to the crucial role of the device vendor community in the potential success of WAC. Back in February, LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson pledged their support to the initiative, but the trio have been quiet since then. Surprising, given that their ability to produce devices in volume that support the initial WAC 1.0 specification by next May will be key to the initiative’s early market impact.
We will also have to wait a little longer on the identity of other handset manufacturers supporting WAC. Sharp and RIM were linked to the initiative in May, but such rumours now appear unfounded. The inclusion of RIM, with its massive enterprise user base, would certainly be a serious boost to the initiative, and it’s not entirely unreasonable to suggest that the company could look to integrate its BlackBerry App World service into WAC in a strategy akin to JIL’s move.
WAC’s interim CEO Tim Raby was asked on a media webinar this afternoon whether other rival app stores to WAC – such as RIM’s BlackBerry App World – could join the initiative. “WAC is totally open, they are welcome to join,” he said. “In fact some of them have expressed interest to join.”
On the subject of device vendor involvement in the initiative, Raby stressed that WAC has had “substantial input” from the handset community. He also noted that by the time of the next news update from WAC (September), the list of 20 members “will be a lot bigger and will include non-operators.”
Place your bets now…
Justin Springham, Managing Editor
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members