Updated: Verizon Woos Developers With Openness

Verizon Logo

I’ve been watching a live webcast of  the Verizon Developer Community Conference that is being held today in San Jose. The U.S.’s biggest mobile operator is saying that they are through with the walled garden and proprietary platforms.  Developers are being promised that going forward it will be much easier, faster and less costly to get their apps to market on Verizon phones.

Key elements of the new developer initiative include:

  • A new vCast Application Store launching by year end
  • 14 day turn around from app submission to public availability in the App Store
  • No developer registration fees for access to APIs including location.
  • Verizon’s “intent” is to not charge for app testing and certification, although this is subject to change.
  • New APIs for location, network access and billing
  • Carrier billing with developers receiving 70% of the revenue.
  • In app advertising will be allowed and Verizon will provide an advertising API.
  • Web Widgets based on the JIL (Joint Innovation Lab) specification will go live in early 2010.  JIL is a joint venture between Verizon,  Vodaphone, China Mobile and Japan’s Softbank.
  • Verizon is opening its network to 3rd party devices, subject to certification and testing.  60 devices have been approved to date.
  • A developer contest with a $50,000 grand prize was announced.

This all sounds like a good deal for developers.  Of course the devil in the details  but I do see a lot I like, particularly the fact that it looks like relatively easy access will be provided to location and other device APIs.  No testing and certification costs are a big win for developers too. That’s one Apple app store innovation that’s spreading like wildfire.

One disappointment is that although claiming to be moving beyond proprietary platforms, Verizon is not abandoning the proprietary BREW platform on its dumbphones.  However, they are making it easier, cheaper and more financially viable  to develop for BREW.  John Stratton, CMO of Verizon, stated that these changes will finally make free BREW apps feasible. The lowering of barriers is certainly good news for BREW developers and should give a boost to the platform’s popularity with developers.  Worldwide though, Java ME is the dominant standard for feature phone application development. I really wish Verizon had announced support for Java rather than fostering fragmentation by continuing to back a niche platform.

The widget platform, JIL seems similar to the Opera, BONDI, Nokia WRT and Netfront widget platforms. All five are based  on JavaScript and XML and incorporate elements of the W3C’s incomplete Web Widget specification.  Unfortunately it looks like there is no inter-opperability between the five widget platforms and widgets will have to be re-written for each.  Argh!, more fragmentation.

I’m curious about Vodafone’s participation in JIL.  Voda is a part owner of Verizon and has been supporting the Opera Widget platform, even sponsoring an Opera  Widget developer contest with a £20,000 grand prize earlier this year.  Is Vodafone abandoning Opera for JIL or is Opera a stealth partner of JIL?  I hope to have a chance to ask Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner about that at the Opera Tweetup in San Francisco this evening.

Update: Jon told me that he is familiar with JIL, they aren’t a partner but that Opera is working to to bring all the Widget platforms including JIL, Bondi, Nokia and Netfront together under a common W3C Widget specification. That’s a great goal and I hope it’s achieved, interoperability is in everyone’s best interest including vendors, developers and users.

I’m also wondering about those 60 new 3rd party devices that Verizon is allowing on their network.  Is there a list of them somewhere?   I haven’t seen any advertised. Are they actually on the market? I really wish CDMA networks were as open as GSM. Why can’t we just use any FCC approved CDMA handset that supports the proper bands on Verizon?  Now that would be open.

Still all griping aside, it really does look like Verizon is serious about opening up their heretofore rather closed world.  It’s the smart thing to do.  Apps are a huge driver of handset sales these days.  Making development and getting to market easier, cheaper and faster should make a lot more apps will be available on Verizon phones.  I looking forward to seeing how it all pans out.

2 thoughts on “Updated: Verizon Woos Developers With Openness

  1. > I really wish Verizon had announced support for Java rather than
    > fostering fragmentation by continuing to back a niche platform.

    "at the JavaOne conference, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam announced that the company is making a strategic shift and will begin to deploy Java Platform Micro Edition-based services in its network and offer Java-based services and applications to its subscribers."

    a pretty staggering announcement... though, it all depends on the follow-through. eg, they claimed they were opening GPS on RIM and WinMo ages ago, but it's barely happened.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *