AT&T's Dapper Den for App Developers

In the past, the hardest part for app developers bringing ideas to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) was finding the front door.

Now the carrier is making it clear that it is more open to outside development of applications and services by opening the first in a series of three innovation centers today, called the AT&T Foundry, in Plano, Texas.

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The building is owned by Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) but the staff and agenda is all AT&T, Robert Vrij, president of AlcaLu's Americas Region, told Light Reading this afternoon. "This is a first-class facility where ideas can start on the whiteboard and get to a finished product in six months or less," Vrij says.

Why this matters
Carriers need to find ways of bringing their IT and IP experts together and they need to work well with outsiders, who might have more innovative approaches to new applications and services, Vrij says. [Ed. note: Amen! That's a gospel we've been preaching as well with our Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) and Bridging the Chasm editorial campaigns.]

Competitors are welcome, too, or at least more welcome than they've been in the past. "We've tried to relax a lot of traditional boundaries here," Vrij says. He namechecks Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) as some of the names that AT&T is working with on projects at the Foundry.

In a podcast interview this afternoon, AT&T's Mike Berry outlines several approaches AT&T is trying to get to know developers. In his blog, AT&T CTO John Donovan elaborated on a "speed dating" event, where app developers pitched ideas and were given quick, definitive answers.

By treating application development as a sprint, not a marathon, AT&T hopes it won't be on the sidelines the next time a big idea -- app stores, cloud computing -- shows up on its network and starts making money for someone else.

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

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