Vodafone jumps into App Store mania

Vodafone jumps into App Store mania
Wireless operator Vodafone announced yesterday an initiative to provide mobile application developers with a single point of access to Vodafone’s global customer base. Vodafone will offer operator billing as well as access to network controlled capabilities (such as location) to these partners.

“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,” said Vodafone in a press release.

In this announcement Vodafone is also making a particular emphasis on geolocation: “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 has created 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.

Vodafone business model for this application store will be the same as Apple: 70% of the revenue for developers and 30% for itself. Vodafone will deliver tools for developers during the summer and expects its store to roll out before the end of the year in eight European countries: United Kingdom, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

Vodafone jumps into App Store mania
Reaching 1 billion customers?
Vodafone also said it 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 a collaboration between China Mobile, Softbank, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone to develop mobile internet services. JIL is due to release a website and a Software Developer Kit in the summer.

In-house services versus App store
It is interesting to put in perspective this announcement with the acquisitions of mobile services companies made by Vodafone such as Wayfinder (navigation and LBS) and ZYB (social networking and contact synchronization). In the one hand the carrier would like to develop some services in-house, but in the other hand it would like developers to come aboard and take advantage of the network capabilities.

To some extend Vodafone shares the same difficulty as Nokia: developing its own branded services (OVI) while developing an App Store (OVI store). Those two options do not really play well together because it makes an App store less attractive for developer if they have to compete with in-house applications. It is however too early to understand exactly how Vodafone wants to combine together this App Store and their internally developed solutions.

Wednesday, May 13th 2009

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