LIVE FROM MOBILE APP WORLD 2010: Sanj Matharu, Principal Manager of Developer Marketing at Vodafone Group, today talked up the potential of WAC for developers to address multi-platform application deployments, while acknowledging several challenges for the technology in the short term. The ability for developers to create products once, submit applications to a unified distribution channel, and address a range of devices was praised, although Matharu noted that the big issue for WAC is that it is “coming soon, it isn’t available now”. In terms of publishing commercial apps for customers, “we are aiming for February,” he said.
This could lead developers to other platforms in the interim – potentially at the expense of momentum in the WAC ecosystem. “What do I do in the meantime? There are other opportunities available,” he said. The presentation also touched on another issue that will affect the success of WAC: the availability of supporting handsets.
Matharu also highlighted that through its international presence, Vodafone Group is able to provide developers with insight into customer preferences and behaviour in specific markets, stating that “there are little details that can be the fine line between success and failure for applications.” The insights shared with the audience included: “Gambling apps in Ireland, not going to work; adult apps in Spain, they love it.” As with other operator (and some vendor) app stores, Vodafone has a quality assurance process before products can be sold to customers, which takes a maximum of 10 days. Developers are provided with feedback as to why an app may be rejected, including the need to comply with local content regulations.
Addressing the mobile apps versus mobile web question, Matharu argued that the picture is perhaps not as clear-cut as it is made out to be. “Everybody talks about fragmentation for mobile devices, but you also have to bear in mind the web browsers you are dealing with. One of the other challenges of having a mobile web page is that if your application is extremely rich, how do you access device features if you want to use them: how do you access the camera, how do you access the accelerometer?” – issues he said WAC is intended to address. In addition, mobile apps also present a more straightforward path toward monetising apps than mobile web pages, with operator billing among the payment options that remove the need to record and process credit card details.
Against a backdrop of fragmentation in the application store ecosystem, Matharu promoted the benefits of the Vodafone store, including as a channel for Android content – “the actual shop experience is a lot richer,” he argued. Echoing similar comments from O2 Media, Vodafone uses its knowledge of customer behaviour to power its recommendation engine, delivering targeted content to users. Vodafone’s app store also differs from Android Market and other rival offerings by building on Vodafone live! to become a full-service content store, rather than a focused software proposition.
Matharu also trumpeted availability of a virtual testing lab, hosted by Vodafone in Germany, in order to enable developers to pilot apps across a range of handsets. “It’s not a silver bullet, it’s not necessarily ideal for high-resolution gaming or anything like that, but it certainly goes some way to alleviate the issues associated with scaling-up,” he said.