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OneAPI & the Global Mobile App Ecosystem

Phil Harvey
3/7/2013
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Last week at Mobile World Congress, we got one step closer to being able to write an application for one operator's network and having that same app work on other operator networks around the world.

The GSM Association (GSMA) announced the OneAPI Exchange and, when it did, it fleshed out some of the details missing when I wrote that such an effort was underway, back in May.

In that story, Heavy Reading analyst Caroline Chappell spelled out OneAPI's potential, even before we knew what it was called: "Now five of the world's largest operators are getting together to make telco APIs work, there is real hope that telcos will at last have a compelling proposition for developers -- and app users -- on a global scale."

The description of the OneAPI Exchange is interesting and follows right in line with Chappell's prediction:

The OneAPI Exchange also allows a developer to specify which other operators’ networks they would like their app to work with, so services are not limited to the customers of a single operator. The platform seamlessly maps the APIs used by the app onto those used by the consumer’s operator. This federated approach enables operators to either customise the services available on their own platforms, while still reaching a mass market, or expose their network capabilities to developers through standardised APIs.

When you think about how websites and Web content work, we take for granted that they behave relatively the same on just about any browser on just about any network. It has always seemed odd to me (and developers, I'm sure) that you had to either choose to develop a mobile app either for a device OS or for a specific network.

At least with this OneAPI Exchange (if it works as advertised), developers can open themselves up to many networks at once. Maybe they can also make their apps and content available on many operating systems at once, with much less effort than is required now.

Apigee is operating the OneAPI Exchange and several global providers are participating, including AT&T Inc., Deutsche Telekom AG, France Télécom – Orange, Telefónica SA and Vodafone Group plc. If they can bring us closer to the write-once, run-anywhere idea that powers most Web content, it could finally make mobile applications a more rewarding market for carriers and developers alike.

My concern in all of this is that the ship may have already sailed. If content creators and game developers standardize on iOS and Android now, and develop for both, they gain access to most of the world's smartphones (more than 80 percent) and they don't have to deal with carriers. As the smartphone world gets less homogenous, developing for carriers will make more sense. But that's not the market reality right now.

— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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