AT&T's developer courtship remains strong as focus shifts to IoT, autos and cities

Sue MarekAT&T recently attracted nearly 1,400 developers to its 9th annual Developer Summit held on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and its hackathon held for the first time in Guadalajara, Mexico. The goal behind the two events working in conjunction was to drive innovation globally and help spur the proliferation of 4G LTE in Mexico -- a market of growing significance to AT&T thanks the company's recent $2.5 billion acquisition of Iusacell and $1.88 billion purchase of Nextel Mexico.

According to David Christopher, CMO of AT&T Mobility and a key player behind the company's developer program, AT&T relies upon developers to spur innovation, particularly as they move into new areas such as the Internet of Things, the connected car and smart cities. "Our philosophy is that we can't do it all, so developers are really important to us," Christopher said during a recent interview with FierceDeveloper.

In fact, Christopher said that developers are so critical that the company has decided to launch another event, AT&T Tech Expo, geared to developers that will be July 15-16 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. "We see the demand," Christopher said. "The Bay Area is a rich bed of innovation and there are developers that can't or won't travel to CES."

Although AT&T hasn't set the agenda for the summer event, Christopher said that it will likely include hot-button areas like big data, IoT and sensors. "Having an event in the Bay Area just makes sense," he added.

But big data, IoT and sensors aren't the only areas developers wanting to work with AT&T should be focused. Healthcare is also growing in importance. The company announced last week that it was opening a new AT&T Foundry for Connected Health in Houston that will focus solely on healthcare.  According to Christopher, the company likes to align its foundries next to centers that are leaders in an area.  For example, the Foundry in Atlanta that focuses on IoT and the connected car is located near Georgia Tech.  In Houston, the new Foundry will be located at the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute.

Although Christopher admits that the company's developer program and its Foundries require significant investment and work, he said that AT&T is seeing the return on its investment. "These new markets take time and we believe you have to invest early," he said.  "You have to have some portion of your business focused on what's new and have some portion of revenues dedicated to these new areas. We think it's paid off."--Sue