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WAC inches forward with JIL in driving seat

28 июля 2010

The proposed mobile operator app store initiative known as the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) came closer to reality on Tuesday when it announced its integration with existing applications body the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL), named its leadership team, and shared details of the business model that will see it facilitate links between developers and operators.

But while there is little doubt that the world's major mobile operators need to come together and leverage their scale if they are to stand any chance of taking on the big guns in the applications space, namely Apple and Google, the speed at which the initiative is moving forwards means WAC runs the risk of missing the boat. In addition, although WAC will make it easier for operators to bring compelling apps to market, its model still relies on the operators themselves having strong enough brand equity to bring in the customers.

"WAC builds an ecosystem that establishes a route to market for developers," Peters Suh, chief executive of WAC and former CEO of JIL, told journalists on Tuesday. JIL, a joint venture between China Mobile, Softbank Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, will be integrated into WAC from September.

"[WAC will provide] common testing and a single point of contact," for the developer community, added Tim Raby, former acting CEO of WAC.

WAC will sit between the developer community and the operator space, facilitating the route to market for developers, but without actually selling applications itself. Apps will be sold through operators' own storefronts, billed through operator channels, and the operators will be responsible for setting revenue-share terms with developers; WAC will take what it referred to as "a small transaction fee" from each application to cover its overheads.

Future plans include enabling in-application billing, leveraging operator network capabilities – such as location – to enhance applications, and facilitating the serving of advertising to end-users.

However, the group is unable to provide further details at this stage.

The software developer kit (SDK) will be published in November and the first devices supporting the WAC specification due on the market next year.

"The first sample devices of the WAC 1.0 runtime [will be available] in Barcelona in February," Raby said. Devices will be "in customer hands as early as May 2011," and on the market in larger volumes by Christmas, he added.

The mobile industry has already suffered a false start in the apps space, with many telcos having failed to gain significant ground with their own app stores. Meanwhile, Google and Apple are marching forwards at a rate the mobile operators, despite their scale, will find it difficult to match.

Addressing fragmentation at a technical level is good news for the operators' chances, but more cohesion at the front end – a joint brand and logo, for example – would have sent a stronger message to consumers.

WAC's members together serve 3 billion mobile customers, a large market for application developers to address. But it is questionable whether the operators have strong enough brands and good enough visibility with their own app stores to woo consumers away from the better-established app giants.

However, Tuesday's announcement suggests that WAC is aiming to work with the very companies it aims to protect the operator community from.

Android, Apple, Blackberry and others are welcome to join WAC, said Raby. "Some of the guys in that list have certainly showed some interest," he said.

"Some might bend what they are doing to fit what we're doing," Raby added, optimistically.

Raby's position in WAC now a permanent CEO has been appointed is at present unclear, although GSMA marketing chief Michael O'Hara noted: "We expect Tim to have a major role in WAC."

WAC's board of directors includes representatives from AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, the GSMA, KT Corp, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Smart Communications, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telekom Austria, Telenor, and Verizon.

In addition, Michael Combes, chief executive of Vodafone Europe, and Jean-Philippe Vanot, deputy CEO of France Telecom, have been named as WAC chairman and vice chairman respectively.

Источник: Total Telecom

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