Verizon released programming tools that allow apps to tap into the network’s location and messaging capabilities today at its Verizon Developers Conference (VDC) held in Las Vegas. Apps created using the new APIs and software developer kits can use handset information as reported by the network to do things like show maps in apps without using GPS or Wi-Fi location. The carrier is looking to add value to for its customers by leveraging the information unique to Verizon, as opposed to perhaps looking at a more drastic approach, such as creating its own OS as other operators insist on trying.
The developer’s tools announced today include APIs that simplify writing mapping, navigation and location-based services. They can also be used to produce cross-platform apps, which work on both Android and BlackBerry handsets on the Verizon network. The smartphone app space is hot right now, and Verizon is pulling out all the stops to attract developers to produce apps for the company to keep it from becoming a commodity connectivity provider.
Apps created in partnership with Verizon will be sold in the VCAST store to run on the carrier’s BlackBerry and Android phones, stated VP Greg Haller at the developer event. The VCAST store launched for the BlackBerry Storm 2 in March of 2009, but only recently expanded to include Android phones on the Verizon network; over 5,000 developers have registered with the carrier to produce apps. Haller made it clear that Verizon’s stance on the VCAST app store is that ”no one succeeds unless everyone in the ecosystem succeeds”.
Verizon only recently requested Android apps for submission to the VCAST store, and has already received a good number of submissions. These apps cover the Verizon line of handsets that run Android 2.2, as the store will not be available on older versions of the OS. Haller stated that apps have already been submitted for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch tablet that will be coming to Verizon soon.
We reported last year that Verizon would not be blocking the Android Market on its phones using the VCAST store, and that was verified in the keynote. The carrier will allow customer installation of the Android Market and the BlackBerry App World on its phones, in addition to Verizon’s own app store. It was stressed that the purpose of introducing its own app store was to provide customers with additional options, not to compete with platform efforts.
Verizon is looking to maintain a competitive edge in a rapidly changing smartphone ecosystem. That requires apps that customers cannot get anywhere else, and that means attracting developers into the fold. Tech-savvy customers might prefer grabbing apps in the platform’s app store, but many will prefer the simplicity a Verizon store provides. The carrier will make sure apps sold in its own store will not create problems on the customer’s phone, and that’s a value that many will be willing to pay for.
Related research from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): The App Developer’s Guide to Choosing a Mobile Platform