Developers move into the driver's seat

With voice service becoming a commodity, wireless carriers are avidly looking for ways to increase their mobile data revenues.  And the quickest (and perhaps most lucrative) way to do that is by finding compelling data applications that will make consumers upgrade to smartphones, purchase data plans and buy apps. 

This emphasis on data is the reason why so many carriers are forming developer communities and hosting developer-centric events. For example, Verizon Wireless announced it will host a developer event in San Jose July 28. Likewise, Sprint Nextel is hosting a developer event Oct. 26-28 in Santa Clara.  

For developers, this attention from Tier 1 operators is critical because mobile carriers have a lot of clout in the ecosystem. If a carrier supports and markets an app, that can mean instant success for a developer. Of course, carriers aren't the only entities looking for talented developers. Handset makers and operating systems are also avidly searching for developers to make compelling apps that they can then use to populate their app stores. 

I spoke with Roger Guranai, senior vice president of product development at Verizon Wireless, about Verizon's upcoming developer event and he said Verizon is hoping to attract hundreds of developers there. The carrier will provide a roadmap for developers and show how the carrier is planning to open up its applications ecosystem. In addition, developers will get a peek at the company's software developer kit (SDK) and also receive information on how they can get their apps in Verizon's new app store. Verizon will debut its developer portal at the event.

Of course, this new "open" agenda from Verizon doesn't mean the carrier is ditching its BREW platform, which it has been using for eight years as a venue to host its data applications and mobile content. Instead, Guranai said the company is expanding its capabilities by rolling out an open environment with open platforms, open development tools and multiple operating system environments. "Many of the developers will be able to take existing apps already developed and quickly render them on devices on our network," Guranai said.

But perhaps the most important thing developers will learn at Verizon's developer event is the financial arrangement. Guranai says the carrier will be providing incentives for developers to create apps and bring them to Verizon's devices and app store. In addition, the company will direct bill customers for the apps, which is considered an advantage over some other app stores where customers must pay for their app via PayPal or another payment method.

It's becoming increasing clear that as carriers, handset makers and operating systems all compete for the attention of the mobile developer,  developers are quickly moving into the driver's seat. It's time to critically evaluate the various developer programs and decide which one makes the best business sense and can bring the most downloads to the developer. It's nice to see the developer move into the power position for a change. -- Sue

P.S.  The Fierce team is working on the annual Women in Wireless feature. If you know an exceptional female executive in the wireless industry who not only has technical savvy, but  is also a strong leader, send an email to [email protected] and explain why we should consider her.