AT&T's Christopher gets real on HTML5, plans to take on OTT players

David Christopher

David Christopher

with David Christopher, CMO of AT&T Mobility

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has always been a big advocate for the developer and its annual Developer Summit--held last week just prior to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas--is a perfect example of how the company brings together its top brass with its growing base of developers to talk strategy as well as debut new tools that will help developers build better apps and maintain their competitive edge.

At last week' summit, AT&T Mobility CMO David Christopher talked with FierceDeveloper Editor-in-Chief Sue Marek about why the company is so bullish on releasing its Call Management API to developers and revealed what he really thinks about HTML5's potential in the market.

FierceDeveloper: You talked about WebRTC in your presentation. Tell me why it is so important.

David Christopher: It's a pretty simple concept. It means that browsers will be able to build communications protocols in the browsers themselves. This means you can answer calls from your browser. You can be on a website and make a call or be on a website and have a video chat, and it will happen natively.  Today you have to have a third-party plug-in. This is good for developers and where it will translate to customers is that it will be easy to use these communications things in your browser.

We announced that we will allow the mobile number--your core AT&T number--to be used by developers.

FierceDeveloper: Tell me more about the Call Management API. It sounds like you are basically taking on the over-the-top players.

Christopher: The core difference is that no one wants another phone number. GoogleTalk and all the OTT players make you get another number, and no one wants that.  This is a no-brainer for carriers to do this, and we are first to announce it.

FierceDeveloper: So if I'm an OTT provider, I'm going to be worried about this.

Christopher: Yes. Or the OTT provider could look at this more from the developer view and figure out how to put this core mobile number into their social media app. It will allow more innovation for developers and keep the mobile number as the center of relevance--which is very strategic for us.

The mobile number is like your social security number--you have it for life. And for it to be able to be used in all facets [of life] is important.

FierceDeveloper: You said that ARO (application resource optimizer) is saving 500 TB of data per month. Is all of that data saved because of how the apps are being optimized?

Christopher: Applications can be either efficient or inefficient.  A sloppy application can be inefficient and eat up network resources.  It could be constantly pinging the network or sending large files and that would make it slower and eat up your battery life. ARO helps developers write tight code. It's good for them, and it's good for the consumer The app isn't slow, and it doesn't eat up your battery life. 

FierceDeveloper:  You said HTML5 is not growing as quickly as you originally thought.  Why?

Christopher: HTML5 is a really important trend. I think that the industry may have gotten ahead of its headlights about how HTML5 was going to be rolled out for applications. For example, HTML5 is really good for certain things. For other things you need more native coding.

The Delta Airlines site is an HTML5 app, and it is a great app. It is relatively light weight. But if you are a gamer, and you are creating an app with processing power that needs to be written so it accesses a lower level of device resources, HTML5 will not be able to do that. 

There is no question that HTML5 is an important trend and has its place. But there is a balance. People got their hopes up that HTML5 could negate everything that came before it.  It isn't going to do that.

FierceDeveloper: You said that you were increasing the developer cut of their revenue on an app on your API platform and that now 80 percent of  the revenue will go to the developer. That's an increase from 75 percent. Why the jump?

Christopher: We are being more aggressive because we want our developers to be successful. We think that creating these attractive reasons to use our API platform is good for us and good for them. AT&T can afford to be aggressive in this endeavor.

FierceDeveloper: Do you think Mobile Share (AT&T's shared data plan) has been a success?

Christopher: Yes, I think Mobile Share is going very well and will continue to grow. It's flexible, and we are not forcing people onto it. Customers like it. We are seeing great uptake on it and satisfaction scores are going well.

FierceDeveloper: Do you think Mobile Share is prompting more tablet sales?

Christopher: We think if you only have Wi-Fi on your tablet you are only using it half the amount you could be. Now with Mobile Share you can add it for $10 and forget about it. It's a great message. Mobile Share is shifting us to a brand new paradigm. I think on the horizon everything is going to be shared.