The world’s largest mobile phone operators, including the four largest in the US, announced today that they are combining forces to make it easier for software developers to write applications that will run on as many phones as possible.
The Wholesale Applications Community is an attempt to retake the initiative from phone makers such as Apple, Nokia and Research in Motion, which have applications stores of their own. Google is also building a significant store for its Android software.
The 24 companies in the community, announced on the first day of the annual Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, will let software developers write applications that will run on phones from many different manufacturers. While they will not have a joint applications store, a developer will be able to submit an application and have it sold across several different carrier stores.
Applications for mobile phones are a fast-growing market, yet developers face the problem that their products run on only a few phones. For instance, an application written for Apple’s iPhone will not run on any other phones.
While developers may like the idea of writing applications that can run on multiple phones, it is difficult to do so. They will also face the problem of making sure their applications will work on phones with different capabilities, button layouts and screen sizes.
The Wholesale Applications Community will initially use two existing cross-platform standards, and hope to develop a single standard within a year.
US operators Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA are part of the group, which also includes major international peers including NTT DoCoMo of Japan, America Movil of Mexico, Britain’s Vodafone and China Mobile. Together, the group serves three billion customers.
Phone makers LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Sony Ericsson are also supporting the group. None of them have major applications stores of their own.