Home Wholesale Applications Community Adds 32 Members, Shaping Up as iTunes Threat

Wholesale Applications Community Adds 32 Members, Shaping Up as iTunes Threat

The Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), an alliance of telecommunications firms working to create a common mobile application platform, just added 32 more members, including big names like Opera Software, Oracle, Alcatel-Lucent, Fujitsu, LG Electronics, China Unicom, Rogers Communications and others.

The group’s goal is to simplify the mobile application creation process for developers, allowing them to deploy mobile apps across all member networks simultaneously. Essentially, it’s an effort to build a global app store.

What’s WAC?

WAC formed at this year’s Mobile World Congress, with an initial group comprised of 24 operators. At the time, it sounded like a big idea with loads of potential; combined, the group reached over 3 billion customers worldwide. However, manydoubtedwhether this “global app store” approach would arrive in a timely enough fashion to compete with the growing juggernaut that is Apple’s iTunes App Store, not to mention its competitors.

Today’s news may have some earlier skeptics taking pause, however. WAC already acquired the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) in April, an organization with similar goals. That merger completed earlier this month and now WAC is releasing the WAC 1.0 specification, based on JIL’s specs.

The new standard aims to make mobile applications available for nearly every mobile phone, not just smartphones or those running a particular operating system, like Apple’s iOS. Apps supporting the standard will be able to launch in all WAC members’ application stores, reaching a much broader market than device-specific apps do.

More App Stores on the Way

WAC offers varying levels of membership for its participants. Board members like the newly added Accenture, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung pay €300,000 a year for membership. Sponsor members, which now includes Alcatel-Lucent, Fujitsu, and LG Electronics, pay €150,000. Associates like Aplix, LiMo, Oberthur, Opera, Oracle and ZTE, only pay €30,000. Combined, the 32 new member have now infused €4 million into WAC and have brought its total membership count to 48.

Both operators and sponsors are allowed to run application stores, which means that new sponsors Alcatel-Lucent, Fujitsu, and LG Electronics may have app stores of their own in the works.

iTunes Threat?

With so many of the world’s operators and other organizations joined up to fight against Apple’s threat, the promise of a simplified “global app store” is no longer that unrealistic. iTunes alternatives have already shown potential for growth beyond the Apple ecosystem, including both the Android Market, now 70,000 apps strong and GetJar, the second-largest marketplace outside of iTunes. Recently, GetJar found new footing by launching promotions where it gives away free games, a move which prompted Rovio to exclusively launch its top title Angry Birds (Android version) for free with the site. WAC may soon add itself to this growing list of alternatives, assuming its progress continues at a decent rate.

Also, as mobile-watching site GoMoNews notes, as the application market expands to developing nations like Africa and India, the need for an app store like WACs, led by operators and not Apple, makes more sense.

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