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    Operators join up to form user interface guidelines


    Another day, another operator-led partnership formed with the intention of imposing some harmony on the fractured world of the mobile vendor community.

    This time it is the device manufacturers who will be the target of attempts by operators to create standard application interface requirements for mobile device platforms. Several operators, the founding members being mmO2, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, SMART Communications, Telefónica Móviles, Telecom Italia Mobile, T-Mobile and Vodafone, have formed the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP).

    The OMTP’s launch release, put it like this:
    “The OMTP group aims to define those platform requirements necessary for mobile devices to deliver openly available standardised application interfaces that will provide customers with a more consistent and improved user experience across different devices, whilst also enabling individual operators and manufacturers to customise and differentiate their offering.”

    What that means is that operators are looking for more commonality of user experience across all devices for a given application. In other words, if the operator is offering an application they dont want to have to necessarily spend a lot of time configuring it, encoding it, delivering it in dozens of different ways to all the different devices on the network.

    But this isnt about standardising the devices or the applications themselves. The aim instead is to provide operators with a way to deliver their own unique services, but in a standardised way across different devices.

    At first sight, of course, it looks as if one of the handset vendors’ own differentiators, useability, might be taken away from them if these standards are formulated and operators insist on them. But operators Mobile Europe has spoken to have said they don’t want to take things to that level, but rather get some grip on the application interfaces themselves, which is a different kettle of fish.

    The number of services and applications currently on offer is far less than operators expect to have in the next three years, when IP subsystems will be supporting the growth of hundreds of application a year. If operators want to deliver a consistent brand experience to their users then they will need to know how an application is going to behave on a given device, without having to re-code and configure the application depending on which device is hitting the application server.

    3 UK’s CTO David Cooper said that 3 is considering joining the alliance. “A lot of this is about messaging,” he said. “In terms of interoperability there must be a minimum spec. Every terminal is different and we have to do a whole load of transformation in the network, so it is in our interests to get some common standards.”

    The OMTP says it will publish first draft requirements in October this year. They will be technology agnostic, the operators insist, meaning that they will not favour one mobile OS over the other. Time will tell.

    External Links

    Open Mobile Terminal Platform