Wireless carriers unite on mobile apps project

Tue, 02/16/2010 - 7:10am
Peter Svensson, AP Technology Writer

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – The world's largest wireless carriers, including the four largest in the U.S., announced Monday that they are combining forces to make it easier for software developers to write applications that will run on as many phones as possible.

The "Wholesale Applications Community" is an attempt to retake the initiative from phone makers like Apple Inc., Nokia Corp. and Research in Motion Ltd., which have applications stores of their own. Google Inc. is also building a significant store for its Android software.

The 24 carriers in the community, announced here on the first day of the annual Mobile World Congress trade show, will let software developers write applications that will run on phones from many different manufacturers. While they won't have a joint applications store, a developer will be able to submit an application and have it sold across several different carrier stores.

Applications for cell phones are a fast-growing market, yet developers face the problem that their products run on only a few phones. For instance, an application written for Apple's iPhone won't run on any other phones.

While developers may like the idea of writing applications that can run on multiple phones, it's difficult to do so. They will also face the problem of making sure their applications will work on phones with different capabilities, button layouts and screen sizes. The Wholesale Applications Community will initially use two existing cross-platform standards and hopes to develop a single standard within a year.

U.S. carriers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA are part of the group, which also includes major international peers NTT DoCoMo of Japan, America Movil of Mexico, Vodafone Group PLC of Britain and China Mobile. Together, the group serves 3 billion customers.

Phone makers LG Electronics Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Ericsson are also supporting the group. Neither of them have major applications stores of their own.

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