Device operating systems

OpenWave Amps Up Browser Apps

Openwave Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: OPWV) is opening up Amplicity, its browser-based mobile app development platform already in use by Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), to other wireless operators. The software vendor announced the platform Monday with the hopes of adding more wireless operator customers to eventually achieve cross-carrier global reach. (See Sprint Tackles Browser-Based Apps.)

The value-added service lets developers tap into operators' network APIs and anonymous subscriber data to build deeply integrated mobile apps coupled with contextual advertising that runs in any HTML5 browser, be it on a mobile phone or a tablet.

"You will see the ability to go to any website and see a toolbar expand to show several apps inside the browser," says Dan Nguyen, Openwave's director of product management and strategy, citing a translation app, enabled because the network can detect the user is traveling abroad in Spain, as an example.

Openwave will make the Amplicity platform available in the first quarter and will be showing it off at next month's Mobile World Congress.

Why this matters
Fragmentation is a well-documented problem in mobile app stores, but, since every mobile device has a browser, Amplicity doesn't share this problem.

Browser-based apps also give the wireless operators a fighting chance in the mobile app wars, since they are the gatekeepers to network APIs and a healthy repository of subscriber data. Operators also have the ability to monetize the apps with existing mechanisms in place, Nguyen says.

"Operators have a massive opportunity to take advantage of their assets that until now have lain dormant in their networks and expose them to the broader ecosystem to create revenue for themselves," Nguyen says. "The recent innovation in the past three to five years was happening outside the operator's network. ... They've benefited from the data traffic, but they certainly are thirsting for much more than more data revenue."

For developers, it may be less complicated to build for the browser, since most of them already have Web development skills and tools at their disposal. Developing these apps instead of native app store apps, however, means sacrificing some functionality, a fact that Nguyen readily admits. He says that developers won't likely build just browser apps, but will use them as a complement to mobile apps that can achieve greater scale and targeting.

Openwave is focusing on adding one operator at a time, to ensure each is successful and to eventually build a service that runs across all mobile networks.

For More
As browsers have improved and HTML5 has garnered support, they've become more viable options for mobile apps. Check out these stories for more on building for the browser:

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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