Vodafone has opened up its billing platform for use by third-party developers in a bid to ramp up the number of applications available via its mobile Internet stores. The UK-based mobile giant announced today that developers will now be able to reach Vodafone’s 289 million subscribers worldwide via a single point of access, allowing customers to pay for applications using Vodafone’s billing system. Like the app store model offered by the likes of Apple and RIM, Vodafone said it would benefit from any uplift in sales under a revenue-share model (though it did not specify the share of revenue that it would pass on to developers). The operator added that it will also make available a set of network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which will enable developers to build capabilities such as direct billing and location awareness into their services.
Vodafone notes that the move is related to its involvement in the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL), a mobile software alliance comprising mobile operators Vodafone, China Mobile, Japan’s Softbank and Verizon Wireless (the latter 45 percent-owned by Vodafone). The project is seen as an attempt by the mobile operators to develop their own software for mobile devices as an alternative to mobile software from the likes of Apple, Google and Nokia. Earlier this year Mobile Business Briefing exclusively revealed plans by China Mobile to launch its ‘Mobile Market’ store by the end of 2009. Vodafone said today it will start to offer access to selected network enablers via JIL, which would allow developers to create widgets for a combined audience of up to 1 billion customers (across the four JIL partner networks). JIL is due to release a website and a Software Developer Kit in the summer. “Vodafone is making these changes to make it easier for third parties to develop attractive new services as well as bill and support our customers through our network capabilities in all markets,” said Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao.