Platforms don’t matter, devices do
    It’s going to be an appy week. Today, there is news that WAC and JIL are going to go up the hill together – the hill being the slope that operators need to climb as they seek to fight back against the OS and device specific app stores. There’s a call later with the newly appointed Chairman of the WAC so we’ll bring you news from that on the site this afternoon.

    Although most of the press reports so far have picked up on the fact that WAC is merging with JIL, this isn’t surprising news. The WAC app specs were being built on a combination of W3C-based BONDI and JIL specs, and it would make little sense for Vodafone, Verizon, SoftBank and China Mobile to have continued JIL as a separate entity from WAC.

    WAC is, of course, the operators’ concerted effort to offer scale and ease of access to developers on a global basis. It’s a crucial plank of their apps strategy.

    But yesterday, Forrester Research dampened down some of the apps hype with some research that it says shows that, in Europe, only 4% of all mobile, and 15% of smartphone, users report downloading apps at least once per month. Forrester’s Thomas Husson also pointed out that while Apple has earned over $400 million from its app store, and has given back $1 billion to developers, that’s still small beer in terms of its overall revenues.

    It’s a confusing world, though, as these user numbers are very much lower than those derived by comScore, who told me that 70% of smartphone users download apps on a monthly basis, 29.4% of all mobile users download apps and 14.8% of non-smartphone users download apps. (NB: It may well be that Forrester’s research tracked markets that are less advanced than comScore’s big five European markets.)

    But Husson did have some better news for WAC and the operators with these comments: “Cross platform players will continue to emerge, but stakeholders with the ability to [succeed] are more likely to be those that control the operating system and the user experience and are able to offer reach to a wide variety of connected devices. That’s why fragmentation is likely to increase in the early days and will likely be followed by a consolidation phase.”

    The WAC announcement comes as news leaks out that Vodafone is abandoning the idea of launching devices specifically built to optimise its V360 experience. This was mainly because its “optimised” devices delivered a non-optimal performance when it came to things like syncing.

    This is relevant because V360 apps are built for the JIL platform, don’t forget – the same JIL that will drive the WAC specs. Vodafone’s 360 device about-turn shows that you can have all the open apps platform you like, but if the UI and the handset technology don’t meet customer expectations, then you have a problem.

    Let’s get back to that Husson quote. “Control the operating system and the user experience”. Will WAC let operators do that? It’s a serious question, and one that Vodafone may have a worrying answer to.

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