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Vodafone’s write-once run-anywhere ‘app store’ for 289m customers

I’ve been hearing lots about Vodafone in recent weeks and I’m delighted to write that their new initiative is now publicly en-route.

If you’re a mobile developer — or an internet developer with designs on mobile — today’s news deserves a sit-down analysis and big think by you and your colleagues.

How would you like an entirely managed method of reaching up to 289 million users worldwide via Vodafone’s own ‘app store’ with the billing taken care of?

I’ve put ‘app store’ in inverted commas because, although there isn’t a mention of the term in their official announcement, that’s more or less what it’s promising to be. Or, at least, that’s a quick summary from me.

Vodafone have done a rather good job of the announcement, so instead of re-writing it, here it is:

Vodafone is to stimulate a new generation of mobile internet applications by providing internet service developers with a single point of access to Vodafone’s global customer base.

Developers will only need to create internet applications once in order to reach millions of Vodafone customers on any device and will be able to charge for it directly through Vodafone’s billing system. This will provide internet content partners, such as the media or game developers, with a cost-efficient and effective micro-payments system to reach all customers on mobile devices.

Vodafone will also provide partners and developers with customer controlled access to other network capabilities, such as location awareness, enabling them to create even more innovative mobile internet services and applications.

The move will be accompanied by a framework to provide customers with transparency and control over how their information is accessed and used.

The scale of the initiative will provide partners and developers with an unparalleled opportunity to increase their revenues from the mobile internet, while delivering services to Vodafone’s 289 million customers. Vodafone will also benefit from any uplift in sales under a revenue-share model.

The benefits to third-party developers and internet companies include:

– A single point of access to millions of Vodafone customers across the globe
– Faster time to market for new products and services across several operating systems and handsets
– Enhanced revenue stream opportunities
– Simplified micro-payments for services through the use of Vodafone’s existing billing systems

The benefits to customers include:

– A greater selection of more compelling internet applications and services
– More convenience and greater flexibility in paying for new services
– A simpler and more intuitive mobile internet experience
– Consistent quality of service across the entire Vodafone footprint

Vodafone will enable developers to use its direct billing capabilities to permit customers to pay for services wirelessly through their existing Vodafone pre- and post-paid accounts rather than having to input sensitive credit card data into multiple application stores.

This is expected to give customers a convenient and highly secure payment option for the different services on offer, as well as encourage greater take up.

By giving developers access to location awareness capabilities, Vodafone will enable a new generation of highly personalised user-activated and controlled services and applications that are tailored to meet the customer’s immediate requirements.

Vodafone is making the enhancements through the creation of a set of network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which will enable developers to build capabilities such as direct billing and location awareness into their services.

The APIs, which provide a link between the applications and the Vodafone network capabilities, will work across the entire Vodafone footprint thanks to a new layer of management technology based on Service Oriented Architecture.

Vodafone will start to offer access to selected network enablers through the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) initiative, which is designed to help developers create useful widgets for a combined audience of up to one billion customers (across the four JIL partner networks). JIL is due to release a website and a Software Developer Kit in the summer. Vodafone is also exploring a range of other ways to expose its network enablers to the broadest possible audience.

“Vodafone is making these changes to make it easier for third parties to develop attractive new services as well as bill and support our customers through our network capabilities in all markets,” said Vittorio Colao CEO of Vodafone. “By giving them simple access to our global customer base and network assets, such as direct billing and location awareness, we will help them to make more money while providing our customers with the innovative services that they want.”

I’ve got a lot of questions. This sounds rather good. Especially the join innovation lab concept.

Can they pull it off? And whilst we’re talking about 289 million customers (or, potentially a billion), how realistic is that considering X million of them are currently sporting rubbish Motorola RAZR handsets? What does this mean for Vodafone support of Nokia’s Ovi? What exactly are Vodafone going to have to put on every handset to support this?

Or are we actually talking about a sooped-up set of mobile web pages that, whilst sounding good (especially to nervous shareholders looking for a response to Apple), isn’t actually going to blow any doors off this year, next year, or this decade?

I hope those questions — and more — will be answered initially in today’s 3pm call. I’m also going to see if I can get some interviews on camera soon.

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Originally published on Mobile Developer TV and automatically republished here on Mobile Industry Review. View the original post.


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