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2/14/2011
02:31 PM
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Telcos Take On Apple

Application stores have become all the rage in the mobile handset market. Rather than acquiesce all of the power to Apple, a group of telecommunications services providers have forged a different approach, the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC).

Application stores have become all the rage in the mobile handset market. Rather than acquiesce all of the power to Apple, a group of telecommunications services providers have forged a different approach, the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC).The group, which was formed at Mobile World Congress World in 2010, launched its service at the show this year. The goal of the consortium is to create an open industry platform that appeals to applications developers, handset manufacturers, operating system suppliers, and end users. To that end, the group has developed the WAC 1.0 specification, which was published in September 2010; the WAC 2.0 standard, which supports HTML5 web applications and is now available; and the WAC 3.0 specification, which will be available in September 2011 and support functions, such as billing and user authentication, so users can more easily purchase mobile apps.

The forum has garnered support from 68 telecommunications service providers, including China Mobile, Orange, TelefÓnica, Telenor, and Verizon. In addition, mobile phone manufacturers Huawei, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and ZTE have pledged to incorporate support for the WAC specification into their products. Initially, the consortium expects to have more than 12,000 applications available in its store.

Application stores have become a key measurement of success in the mobile market even since the Apple iPhone become popular a few years ago. Since then, handset vendors have tried to duplicate that success, with varying degrees of success. The service providers do not want to be left behind as this phenomenon takes shape. They certainly play a key role in the deployment and ongoing maintenance of mobile applications. How well their group effort can compete with more focused, monolithic vendors is an open question.

For small and medium businesses, the emergence of the WAC means their users will have one more option for places where they can buy their mobile apps, which means the IT folks will need to monitor one more option and guard against unforeseen problems, such as malware being slipped into these apps. Eventually, the app market will sort itself out, but for the moment, end user choices – as well IT department concerns -- continue to multiply.

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