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Thousands of devices, hundreds of service providers, and dozens of app stores mean that developers must place bets on devices, telcos, and service functionalities. This fragmentation creates risk for developers and cripples innovation across the industry in several ways.
Complexity: Because they can't easily develop across devices and telcos, developers today are resigned to the path of least resistance - even when it means leaving money on the table. They opt to program for platforms that give them the most reach and best chance for success, leaving other potentially attractive channels and customers untapped due to a lack of resources.
Lack of Bandwidth and Network Investment: Popular, bandwidth-hungry applications - which often run "over the top" using the carrier's data connection - can overwhelm a network. Service providers, wary of simply providing "dumb pipe" may resist investing in the additional bandwidth needed to support these applications appropriately.
Out of Pocket Expense: Most applications, even for the iPhone, fail to achieve large-scale success. Starved for revenue, developers do not want to pay up-front fees for the usage of network functionalities in their applications. As a result, they look for ways to go over the top of a service provider's network to control costs. For example, rather than use the more refined and costly capabilities of a network's geo-fencing capability, a mobile ad developer may instead opt for the device-based workaround to reduce expense. This hurts service provider revenue and results in a less capable application.
Network Security Fears: Service providers set a high price for accessing network APIs because they have built their business and reputation on reliability and security. This is part of the reason telco APIs are so arcane and that they are only understood by telecom IT managers. As a result, service providers don't understand what motivates third-party developers, nor do they have the resources and knowledge to properly cultivate and manage a developer ecosystem.
Individual App Store Requirements: More than 80 app stores already exist, and the number is rapidly growing. Each imposes its own certification process and requirements. And then of course even if the processes were the same for each one, there is the challenge for developers to manage all of the metadata associated with each version or update across each of the stores.
Unrealized Revenue: The barriers created by fragmentation stifle application development by hampering creativity and limit the ability of developers to realize the financial potential of their work. This deprives end users of the best that the Web and telco worlds have to offer. It's an unsustainable and unstable industry business model, and it must change.
There is a Cure
Telcos have recognized these problems, and are responding with a cohesive and inclusive strategy that will revolutionize the development and distribution of mobile applications. Turning the telco network into the primary application development platform is the key to this plan. As a single, scalable IP network, it is ideal for collaborating, delivering and managing telco, enterprise and third party applications regardless of access mode and device. It also provides the must haves you'd expected from a robust applications platform: bandwidth scaling, QoS and traffic optimizers, automation, billing and payment, and so on.
Using telco development tools and APIs eliminates many of the barriers that have kept service providers and developers apart, enabling application innovation to flourish in an open, mutually beneficial business model. Telco networks are ideal for collaborating, delivering and managing telco, enterprise and third-party applications, regardless of access mode and device.
By making the telco network their primary application development platform, developers gain immediate relief from oppressive fragmentation, improving their odds of application success. For instance, developers no longer have to program services to access capabilities such as SMS, MMS or presence on multiple devices. Instead, they can write the functionality once and let the telco network manage optimal performance on consumer devices.
Telco networks offer developers unique advantages as an application platform. The next generation of applications will be highly personalized and interactive. They will seamlessly blend voice, data, video and multimedia across all devices and networks, including television, broadband Internet and mobile. Powerful new networks provide the means to do this, and developers can still differentiate their applications.
Developers can grab developer-friendly API bundles - accessed using SOAP and REST - that expose unique telco and enterprise capabilities. Rather than investing the time to search and locate APIs for a new social gaming application idea and negotiating the terms of their usage, developers can simply grab a social gaming API bundle - including providing SMS, advertising, virtual goods and location services, for example - at a single location.
Access to these API bundles is provided in a bold new revenue sharing business model that properly aligns incentives for developers, service providers and third party API providers. Everyone wins.
Speeds Up Delivery, Accelerates Monetization
This aggregation model also alleviates fragmentation by enabling developers to automatically share their applications across multiple service providers. This speeds up the delivery of exciting new services, and accelerates monetization. A dashboard tool even provides personalized, detailed real-time business data on applications and their adoption and use by subscribers across a wide array of major apps stores.
This new approach will make it easy for developers to bring their applications to market. They will have a single place to upload their application, manage certification and updates, and distribute across multiple stores. In addition, a wholesale service will give apps store managers the ability to browse and select from a pre-certified inventory of developer applications. This gives developers greater reach and app stores more apps.
By transforming the telco network into an application development platform that addresses all of the developer's business requirements - building, testing, management and distribution - the new paradigm for mobile application development is bringing service providers and developers together in new and mutually beneficial ways.
The future is mobile, and telcos have realized that their success and your success are intertwined. If you have stayed out of mobile application development because it looked too convoluted a market to traverse, it is time to take another look.
Photo by Gonzalo Baeza Hernández