The demise of the Wholesale Application Community (WAC) may prove the doomsayers right, but doesn’t necessarily mean telcos should give up on network application program interfaces (APIs).
A GSM Association (GSMA) announcement Tuesday revealed WAC is being dissolved after two and a half years. API technology developer Apigee is acquiring WAC’s technology and staff, while future distribution will now be handled directly by the GSMA.
WAC’s failure was predicted from the moment the carrier alliance was announced at the 2010 Mobile World Congress. At the time, TechCrunch posted an article noting the scheme “sounds like a disaster in the making,” rightly pointing out that previous attempts to ‘write once; run anywhere’ had been doomed to failure.
The problem for WAC appears to be that carriers are incapable of working with developers, or even among themselves, GigaOm’s Kevin Fitchard notes. He points to a lack of a common distribution platform as a major failing of the initiative, suggesting that Apple wouldn’t be the player it is today if app developers had to seek approval from every individual carrier selling iPhones.
However, the GSMA collaboration with Apigee could be the boost WAC needed. Apigee is set to continue the group’s development work, and provide that as a managed service to the GSMA. The Association will then distribute those APIs to its 800 operator members, perhaps overcoming the distribution issue flagged by Fitchard.
There also remains a strong case for telcos to utilize network APIs to fight back against the dominance of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android ecosystems. John Muhlner, director of SDP product marketing at Oracle, last month told TelecomsEMEA.net telcos can utilize APIs to offer services that over-the-top providers can’t, including subscriber location, charging, messaging, call control, quality of service, identity management and profile exposure.
Recent success for web browser firm Mozilla’s mobile Firefox operating system also shows that backing for web-based applications isn’t dying with WAC. The firm recently revealed a raft of new carriers have joined Telefonica in backing the OS, and that handset vendors TCL Communication and ZTE are set to produce the first devices.
However, Ovum analyst Nick Dillon subsequently injected a note of caution to Mozilla and Telefonica’s apparent success, noting the current crop of smartphone platforms already offer “good support for HTML5 web technologies.”
Dillon, ominously, also states that “operator support is certainly no guarantee of a platform’s success.” Time will tell if GSMA backing can address that problem.