Photos: Inside Verizon's Developer Playground
If, however, you're a developer wanting to launch your app to the open market and make millions of dollars by next week, the Center may not be what you're looking for, though it could be a start.
Innovation Centers are a relatively new trend in the wireless industry, but now most operators have one, replete with comfy chairs, stocked bars and a number of workstations where developers can build, test and refine mobile apps. (See AT&T Comes to Silicon Valley, From AT&T Labs: A New(er) Network Vision, Battle of the Carrier Innovation Centers and AT&T's Dapper Den for App Developers.)
There’s been a healthy amount of skepticism about these Centers, with some people questioning why developers would want to devote their time and resources to an operator when a garage and VC funding works just fine.
But after visiting Verizon's Center near Silicon Valley, I think the answer is -- why not?
The 12,000 square-foot facility features a number of useful tools, including three private labs connected to the carrier's LTE test network from its Waltham, N.J.-based LTE Innovation Lab, an RF lab and an experience area where they have access to yet-to-be released mobile devices, network APIs and chipsets from partners Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and Nvidia Corp. (Nasdaq: NVDA).
Click on the image below to launch a slideshow tour of Verizon's new digs, and use the arrows above to navigate.
Some of the APIs include code that enables app-driven quality of service, which means developers can adjust the settings of the network to make a particular service perform better. Hugh Fletcher, a Verizon associate director of technology, calls it a "programmable network," in that third parties can access the network and manipulate the jitter, latency, bandwidth or priority given to an app. This is something Verizon may let consumers do as well, opting to "turbo-charge" streaming media, potentially for a fee, to improve its performance in congested times.
"This is the first time in the world developers get access to the core network that they can program to work for their business purposes," Fletcher says.
Verizon also offers a micro-transaction API for in-app billing, location APIs for targeting apps and services and access to both Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s network and its nearby Innovation Center's development tools. (See Vodafone Reaches Out to Silicon Valley and Vodafone Opens Xone R&D Center.)
Larry Rau, director of network technology for Verizon, says the lab is not a software development house, nor a place to build Verizon apps. Rather, it's designed to help developers build their own apps with their own IP and potentially even get funding for them. Verizon doesn't require exclusivity or an NDA either.
That said, it's hard to imagine that any app successfully honed through any of these carrier Innovation Centers bypassing Verizon's marketing team. But that's not necessarily a bad thing for a developer trying to get noticed in what is a crowded market. (See AT&T App Enables Work/Play Divide.)
It's too early to tell if these multimillion-dollar facilities are a good investment for the wireless operators, too, but for a developer, it sure beats the garage.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile