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Mobile Operators Ready to Take on Apple and Google?

The uneasy partnership among Apple, Google, and cellular service providers may become more strained moving forward. Aggravated that they need to cater to mobile phone suppliers, a group of two dozen network operators have banded together and are building their own developer community.
The uneasy partnership among Apple, Google, and cellular service providers may become more strained moving forward. Aggravated that they need to cater to mobile phone suppliers, a group of two dozen network operators have banded together and are building their own developer community.The new Wholesale Applications Community has begun working on common development standards that should be ready within the next 12 months. The standards are designed to be independent of phone type and operating system and enable developers to write an application once and have it run on a variety of handsets and networks. The group includes AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Telefnica, Telenor Group, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. Three handset vendors, LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, also support this initiative.

The move is designed to thwart the growing influence that Apple and Google are having on the mobile marketplace. These companies are not only gaining a lot of user interest but their products have become favorites among developers. Consequently, carriers are losing their clout and are increasingly in a position where they have to cater to the handset suppliers demands. They would now like to take on more of the action involved in running application stores. In fact, Orange, Verizon and Vodafone have been building their own stores. The dividing lines between carriers and handset suppliers are also disappearing. Google started off developing just the operating system for mobile handsets but also slid over to begin making its own phone. In addition, the company has started to show interest in delivering telecommunications services. It has started one project for wireless connectivity and last week talked about delivering fiber to the home. The carriers need to protect their turf or they may lose influence (as well as revenue) in how mobile applications are delivered.

The market changes could cause confusion among small and medium businesses. Should they have their users frequent handset specific stores or support Wholesale Applications Community? How tight are the bonds between handset suppliers and carriers? Should these groups split, how will that impact their users? A lot of money is at stake as the mobile market continues to mature. The various vendors want to make sure that they end up with their share of it. It remains to be seen if customer service will be sacrificed as the vendors look out for their own best interest.