Vodafone put out a press release today proclaiming that the giant operator group is going ?to redefine the mobile Internet experience.? Beneath the grand title, the details are more prosaic, but still represent an important and overdue step forward.
Vodafone is going to give developers access to a single set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that will make it easier and quicker to create apps that will be able to reach customers using many different mobile devices across the group?s wide geographic footprint. If users have given approval, apps will be able to access useful information held in the network, such as a phone?s location. Crucially, developers will also be able to use Vodafone?s billing systems to charge for apps, meaning buyers won?t have the hassle and security risks of keying credit card details into their phones each time they purchase a new app.
Many developers will reserve judgement to see if there is a devil in the detail, such as the terms of the revenue-share agreement and to what extent Vodafone has simplified the job of writing apps for many different devices running many different operating systems. But there are signs, such as the use of a quote from Group CEO Vittorio Colao in the press release, that Vodafone is giving this work a high priority.
These kinds of initiatives by individual operators, together with the GSMA?s cross-operator OneAPI programme, should give developers a faster and easier way to serve the broader market beyond smart phone users. As the name suggests, the GSMA?s OneAPI initiative aims to establish a single set of APIs developers can use to create network-enhanced apps that will run on many different operators? networks around the world.
For example, with a user?s permission, an app could make use of the network?s messaging capabilities and contextual data on the user, as well as location information and the billing system.
Operators and developers will get a chance to further discuss how best to standardise APIs within and across mobile networks during an expert panel
session at the GSMA?s Mobile Innovation Marketplace event in Barcelona on June 18-19.
Ultimately, straightforward access to the useful information held in operators? networks, and their billing systems, should make it commercially viable for developers to create a huge range of rich and diverse apps for ordinary handsets similar to the ?long tail? of apps enjoyed by iPhone users today. Judging on some of the titles in the top 100 paid-for apps on the iPhone, there is plenty of demand for the weird, wonderful and just plain silly. The top three? The World Factbook, Flight Control and The Moron Test.