The Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) – a group established at this year’s GSMA Mobile World Congress with the goal of creating an open international applications platform – today set out its planned key milestones for the year ahead. The beginning of July will see the group officially unveil its business model and management, as well as its technical strategy. In September WAC plans to publish its first set of documentation for developers and two months later (November) the group will hold its first developer event. Then, at next year’s GSMA Mobile World Congress in February, WAC will launch its first services. On a media and analyst call today, representatives from the initiative stressed that – contrary to UK media reports this week – no decision has been made on where the headquarters of the initiative will be based, or which specific technology platform will be used. “You can expect to hear more in July,” said the GSMA’s CMO, Michael O’Hara. There was also no mention on today’s call of whether Sharp and Research In Motion had joined the group, as reported earlier this week.
Today’s call came eleven weeks after 24 of the world’s largest mobile operators, as well as vendors LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, pledged their support to the initiative, making it the largest unified move to date by the operator community into the apps space. The alliance aims to create a wholesale platform for mobile apps that provides a single point-of-entry for developers. The move is seen as the operator community’s challenge to the mobile application stores currently offered by the likes of Apple, which are typically linked to a specific device platform. Significantly, of the 24 operators involved in the initiative, specific mention was given today to AT&T, NTT Docomo, Orange, SoftBank, T-Mobile, Telefonica and Vodafone; operators who were described as “leading” the initiative.
Tim Raby, acting CEO of WAC and managing director of OMTP, stressed the ‘open’ nature of the initiative, declaring that “the problem is the industry has created islands of apps, focused on ‘over the top’ solutions that ignore the opportunities offered by network assets. You currently have an Apple environment, a Nokia environment, a RIM environment and a Google environment; they are not integrated.” This open strategy, noted Raby, will potentially enable developers to ‘write and submit once, sell and deploy everywhere,’ hitting a customer base of over three billion users. No specifics were provided on today’s call regarding the revenue share from app sales, but Raby promised the model will benefit the entire ecosystem and “a lot of that [revenue] will go back to the developer.” He added that WAC will be a non-profit making operation and will only generate revenues to cover its operational costs. “This alliance is for the benefit of the industry. We need to cover our costs but it isn’t about returning money to the stakeholders… We’ll talk about that in a couple of months.”
Finally, the four participants on the call – Raby, O’Hara, Deutsche Telekom’s Dave Gannon and Vodafone’s Reinhard Kreft – all brushed aside concerns that such a large group of operators would be unable to align themselves under one common goal. “When we announced it there was a lot of concern that operators couldn’t work well together,” admitted Gannon. “People ignored the fact that operators work well under the GSMA and also OMTP Bondi. We have a common goal of removing the barriers; yes there are obstacles to overcome but if you have a common goal you can work together… We have face-to-face meetings every 4 weeks and calls every 2 weeks. In the interim periods there are workstreams. If you can scratch away the politics then the engineers are very happy to work together on architectural solutions and it’s about bonding the JIL solution and the BONDI solution we already have. Every day we are working towards it we are breaking down the barriers.” Reinhard added that the initiative can also build on “some of the learnings from the GSMA’s OneAPI [project] and JIL, so we are not starting from scratch.”