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Are Enterprise App Stores like AT&Ts Going To Thrive?

This week as CES in Las Vegas AT&T unveiled a new, HTML5 driven app development environment to encourage developers to write ‘apps’ that really aren’t.

“It’s essentially a rich set of APIs and tools aimed at furthering the HTML5 appeal as an app development choice,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer at AT&T. “Why are we focusing on HTML5? We think it has the potential to address fragmentation.”

Most current iOS and Android (and others) apps are written in proprietary code and require recompiling and tweaking to switch platforms. Programs written in HTML5 circumvent this because they run in code delivered via the web. Most people don’t remember that these ‘web apps’ if you will were the original offerings on the iPhone.

The bigger question is ‘why’? With millions of apps available across the iOS and Android platforms why would anyone now start developing in the AT&T ‘app’ center as well?

The answer is going to lie in the real value that AT&T can provide – which is not an HTML5 development environment. Cross-platform solutions like PhoneGap have been around for a while now so AT&T is bringing nothing really new to the development front.

What they are bringing new is access to their vast network and the other devices and content participating on it. This could be huge for them and it’s using the model that Apple developed and Google copied, both of which have been wildly successful.

Give access to registered developers ($99 – just like Apple) and turn them loose to come up with creative and profitable ways to extend the value of the AT&T network to it’s customers. Simple.

With the new API offerings, developers will be able to take in-app payments charged directly to a user’s AT&T bill, will be able to control SMS and MMS, find device location, integrate with AT&T’s U-Verse TV, and access unique mobile device capabilities, said David Christopher, AT&T’s chief marketing officer.

This is not a new concept and the idea of telco APIs have been bandied about for years – most often with the discussion of how to make money with them – but this a big deal. It will be interesting to see whether or not other CSPs in North America, Europe and Asia begin offering this as well.


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