Verizon Recommits to BrewVerizon Recommits to Brew
In the face of waning feature-phone revenues, Verizon doubles down on the Qualcomm platform and its developers
July 2, 2010
SAN DIEGO -- Uplinq -- Hoping to turn around nearly three years of feature-phone revenue declines, Verizon Wireless is recommitting itself to Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s Brew (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) mobile platform.
Touting its modernized approach, Verizon chief marketing officer John Stratton introduced the Open Catalog program for Brew, developed in conjunction with Qualcomm, at Uplinq this week. In this updated Brew MP app store, Verizon is reducing the certification costs to $100 from $500, and it's speeding time to market to 12-to-18 days rather than 30. Stratton said Verizon's certification process, like its fees, used to be over the top, accounting for the 30-day process, but it's been expedited through the addition of resources and a streamlined workflow. He also conceded that competition forced those changes.
The program is open to Verizon's lineup of Brew-enabled multimedia handsets and feature phones, but developers aren't committed to a minimum number of devices, meaning they can target only the most popular feature phones if they so choose.
Mitch Oliver, vice president of ecosystem development for Qualcomm, described Open Catalog as a tiered approach in that it's open to all developers, but Verizon and Qualcomm will cooperate to highlight some of the best or most popular apps with premium placement.
"We want to show developers who are spending so much that they still have a place with premium placement and simplified discovery," Oliver said, "but everyone has a way to get into the app store."
Verizon will use Qualcomm's Xiam recommendation engine to address this issue of discoverability and is introducing micro-transactions to allow for various forms of in-app billing. Stratton said developers can now offer free apps, not just paid ones as in the past with Brew. Then, within the app, they can include micro-transactions such as premium digital goods or in-app subscriptions. Stratton doesn't know when in-app advertising would be enabled as well.
Stewing over Brew
Verizon was the first to launch a Brew store in 2003, but Stratton admitted that recommitting to the platform wasn't a sure thing. The carrier had watched its revenues from feature phone apps steadily decline from the third quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of 2010. Smartphone growth made up for the revenue loss, but the decline made Verizon execs think twice about whether Brew was worth saving. (See AT&T to Serve More Brew.)
Ultimately, the deciding factor was scale. Out of the 250 million addressable Brew handsets on the market, Stratton said 56 million of them belong to Verizon customers. Reviving Brew was, therefore, a practical decision for the carrier. (See Qualcomm Chief Stresses Need for App Efficiency.)
"What we have here is a reinvestment on our part and on the part of Qualcomm to ensure we are working well with you all to tap into the pretty spectacular opportunity represented by the 250 million user base," Stratton told the developer audience in his keynote.
Despite the promises, developers aired concerns at Uplinq that Open Catalog might not be truly open and that Verizon has more to do to lower the barriers to entry. Oliver suggested that more than anything, they just want to be assured that Verizon will actually do what it says.
As compared to Brew's past conferences, he said, this year there's much less extremism. Developers aren't calling for operators to get out of their way anymore, nor for everything to be free. The audience is much more educated, Oliver said, and they realize the opportunity at stake.
"There is so much upside from letting operators have some control, it outweighs the downside," he said.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile
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