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Verizon to Mobile Developers: Can You Hear Me Now?

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IMG_2505Verizon (s vz) wants to build its own app store, and is planning a July 28 event to entice developers to its platform. Like everyone else wooing programmers, the company hopes to get the equivalent of the in-crowd building the hottest apps that will elevate its store, and thus its phones and network, to the level of popularity that Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone currently enjoys. But getting a critical mass of developers building great software isn’t an easy task.

And while Verizon is romancing developers, the carrier isn’t as solicitous of its handset partners. Verizon’s Ryan Hughes, VP Partner Management, said in an interview Friday that the network operator’s app store will be the sole marketplace on devices sold by the company, meaning stores such as Research In Motion’s BlackBerry App World or Microsoft’s Windows Mobile Marketplace won’t get placement on Verizon handsets unless a consumer downloads them. Hughes also said that Verizon is focusing on aggregating content from four different developer communities: Windows Mobile, Palm, Android and BlackBerry.

Here’s how it will work. Hughes says developers can build applications for whatever platform they want. If they want to tie those apps to Verizon’s subscriber data for information about locations or to bill a customer, the developer needs to go through a quick approval process with Verizon and add an API to access the appropriate data. Consumers will see a Verizon app store before the close of this year, and developers can expect to learn all about this at the Verizon Developer Community Conference on July 28 in San Jose, Calif.

This is an about-face for Verizon, which has historically not laid out a welcome mat for developers. Hughes says in the past the company set the prices a developer could charge for an app running on the Verizon network. Now, Hughes said, developers will get a check, although he declined to disclose the details of a revenue-sharing program with me. He said it would be “competitive, not only with the price, but with the process and the simplicity which developers have come to expect in open ecosystems.”

I assume he means Apple’s (s aapl) App Store for the iPhone, which has reinvented the idea of mobile applications by making the process of consuming such apps easier on consumers, and the approach to offering them less painful for developers. Hughes never mentioned Apple by name, but he said the carrier has changed its philosophy toward application stores. He said Verizon has offered content for years using Qualcomm’s Brew platform for feature phones, but smartphones were left out. Now that smartphones are so popular with consumers rather than merely with corporate users, having applications is becoming more important, and those apps are coming from a greater number of providers.

“There’s been a huge influx in content largely due to the other app catalogs, from the middle-tier and long-tail developer community. We’ve always had deals with companies like ESPN and EA, but now there are all these mom-and-pop developers. So where there were once 20 or 40 developers that you needed to care about, now you have 100,000,” Hughes said. “Quite candidly, we didn’t have the framework to handle those applications in Brew.”

Verizon will still offer the Brew platform on its feature phones, but has now turned its energy to building out a Verizon app store for smartphones. Hughes admits these handsets are far more open than feature phones, which means that instead of approaching developers and consumers as a dictator, Verizon will have to make nice with an easy-to-use interface and quality design. We’ll see how well this goes.

For more on this topic, see our previous coverage:

Vodafone Wants to Take a Bite Out of Apple’s App Store

Telstra’s Planned App Store Is a Shift for Carriers

129 Responses to “Verizon to Mobile Developers: Can You Hear Me Now?”

  1. The conference occurred on 7.28 but I haven’t seen any coverage on it.

    Looking at Verizon’s developer site:

    Any follow up on this? This got barely any coverage from the usual suspects.

    Looking at

    Network enablers, not sure what they are for. LBS already on many smartphones, aGPS (and Skyhook) are not new. Can’t see what Calendaring has to do with the carrier.

    I can see the rationale for a store however, since Verizon is expected to open its network to apps that pass minimum certification and this is a way for them to control the process. They promised no certification fees. I’m weary of app stores, but I don’t think Verizon’s is necessarily more evil than Apple’s, RIM et all.

    I’m struggling to see what’s new in Verizon’s API offerings. LBS is not new, smartphones use aGPS already, unless Verizon is thinking of their own proprietary Navigator as an example. Calendar, again, what does that have to do with the carrier? Maybe this was appropriate with the BREW platform but seems redundant with today’s smartphones.

    As for the store, billing is convenient but I think it’s only an incentive to the developer and could be offered as a web service. Verizon seems to want its own store to maintain some control as it opens its network to all compliant devices and applications. I think that’s a legitimate reason for a store, or really, a gateway for certifications (no certification fees).

    What I think carriers can and should is take over Push infrastructure since they maintain constant connection with the device already. But I haven’t seen any indications from carriers on this.

  2. Verizon just needs to give us free apps and make phones that can support them. We paid OUR moneys for these phones and should be able to put what WE want on them without paying subs. and montly fees. Verizon truly sucks.

  3. Hamranhansenhansen

    What Verizon is doing has been tried a thousand times and it amounts to blowing smoke. Developers are not impressed by business presentations.

    When Apple released the first iPhone SDK, they had been deploying iPhone applications internally for 3 years, and there were over 10 million iPhone users who all had the exact same hardware/software and all had their credit cards hooked into iTunes Store for 1-click ordering. That is like a honey pot for developers. Apple did not have to plead with them one bit. Instead of blowing smoke, Apple offered a product: a $99 end-to-end iPhone SDK that started with desktop-class software development and ended with a check for the developer. Done and done.

    Verizon has none of these things in place.

    Also Verizon is US-only, Apple is worldwide. Apple has one desktop-class OS and Verizon has 5 baby ones. Apple has one 480×320 multitouch display and Verizon has 5 different chicklet keyboards and various pointing devices and display sizes and probably styluses. Apple has a non-phone device (iPod touch) that people buy for $225 from a vending machine without contract all over the world and it runs iPhone apps, but with Verizon you only have people with smart phone data plans for $1000 per year. Apple has experience with developers and application platforms (Cocoa Mac, Carbon Mac, Mac Toolbox, Newton, Apple II) and Verizon … not so much.

    It would be better for Verizon to insist that all of the phones that it sells have HTML 5 browsers, which most of them do anyway, and encourage the upcoming age of real Web apps to start sooner rather than later. With local storage and many other things you can do in WebKit, all of which are 100% standardized, you can make some great apps that deploy on all smartphones as well as PC’s. Certainly, I have seen better apps in HTML 5 than on any mobile platform other than iPhone.

  4. “He said Verizon has offered content for years using Qualcomm’s Brew platform for feature phones, but smartphones were left out. Now that smartphones are so popular with consumers rather than merely with corporate users, having applications is becoming more important, and those apps are coming from a greater number of providers.”

    So, it appears Verizon believes that GetItNow + Smartphones + minor pricing tweaks == competitor to iPhone App Store.

    I am sorry, but if they really believe this then they’ve already lost. GetItNow is a pile of crap for fundamental reasons. If they believe their experience in serving crapware to those foolish enough to pay their exhorbitant prices yields *ANY* pertinent experience then I expect this attempt to fail miserably.

  5. Sorry… to me, Verizon means crippled phones (bluetooth, USB, ringtones) and the Verizon store will feature crippled apps. They’ll be unreasonably expensive with terrible UI. User experience will be like signing up for a gym membership or buying a used car. Verizon’s real passion is saturation advertising, and their app store will just be another vector for it. If GigaOM were Verizon, I might have been charged 60 cents for this comment (440 chars = 3 SMSes)

  6. lookmark

    Ah well. Unless Verizon starts making special exceptions, this completely stone-dumb announcement all but guarantees no iPhone for Verizon anytime in the near future, if ever.

  7. LVerde

    Verizon continues to forbid access to location data for apps like Google Maps on Blackberry and other devices. And so I fully expect to see an attempt to charge either the developer or the end user for access – initially. Given Verizon’s ostrich-like ability to ignore reality, I suspect it will be 2011 before they give up on their stranglehold on the deck, and on location data access, finally opening up. If the Android scenario plays out to its full potential, we may find ourselves in a much better world in 2011/12.

  8. What Verizon needs to do is get the IPhone. If it did it would put AT&T out of business. On the other hand if de la Vega ever figures out that offering the IPhone at a higher price but without requiring the data plan would result in a large influx of new customers, he could cripple Verizon.

    • Tom Ross

      – Verizon has the best network because they don’t have the iPhone. I doubt that Verizon could handle 10 million iPhones like AT&T has to nowadays.
      – AT&T has offered the iPhone at full price w/o contract for much of its lifetime (June’07-June’08 and March’09-June’09). It never made a difference.

      • “AT&T has offered the iPhone at full price w/o contract for much of its lifetime”

        Yeah, probably because the phone is still locked to AT&T.

        AT&T and Apple both have been refusing to unlock the two-year-old original iPhones, even though the subsidy period (the original 2 year contract) has expired.

  9. Verizon is one of the largest advertisers in the US. If they pull together a compelling message/campaign to promote their App Store (and have a ez to use app store and process). It is not game over – but it will be a good game to watch.

    • nah, the app store didn’t make the iPhone a success, the iPhone made the app store a success. People only care about the App Store because its on the iPhone. If it were on any other phone no one would give a crap about it

      • Not sure i totally agree. I think it they are codependent. If iPhone sucked, yep – App Store wouldnt have matter. But the bigger point is that awareness for Mobile Apps (here in the US) has been driven in large part by the iPhone and the “there’s app for that” marketing blitz. People who dont have an iPhone are trying to figure out how to get apps for their phone. So if VZ pushes heavy with the right ads for their app store – it will probably work.

      • @rloughery I tend to disagree, partly.

        The entire package is what makes Apple a success: iPhone, iTunes, App Store, and market awareness as one cohesive experience where ATT is the pipeline for bandwidth—they just get out of the way and rake in the cash.

        iTunes and the iPhone’s OSX interfaces provide reliable, easy and (mostly) fun experiences. The Verizon website is an epic usability nightmare, even uploading pics and video is an exercise in frustration.

        Boiling the iPhone down to advertising doesn’t take into account all the other parts that, in total, add up to one experience.

      • Jeff, I agree with your opinion…

        Apple’s iPhone experience was designed to eliminate the frustrations of developing and distributing applications. The candy is helpful! Verizon is attempting to reign in this success, and my opinion is that they will only succeed by eliminating choice in platform app stores.

        Good Luck, but I doubt highly that this will be a good experience. As with the Palm Pre, I’ll be watching from the sidelines!

      • Steve Bryan

        You seem to be oblivious to a part of the market that is just as large as the iPhone. The iPod Touch has been very successful and can run almost every one of the thousands of apps in the App Store (and no huge monthly fee). The App Store would be a wild success even if the iPhone did not exist. Voice telephony is just another app whose importance is inflated for legacy reasons like fax technology and fax modems in the 90’s. It also has a relative limited future. If mobile continuous connectivity were sufficiently important to an iPod touch user then MiFi and a Verizon’s better 3G network would cost less and work better. Plus there would be no quasi-dishonest tethering charge. The MiFi device would support your laptop and any other WiFi enabled device without any additional BS AT&T ‘tax’.

  10. VZW still continues to not get it…they want to limit and restrict their phones (bluetooth crippling, anyone?) and then wonder why people are leaving in droves to at&t/apple iPhone. Verizon lost out on the iPhone in the very beginning because they wanted strict limitations on what could and couldn’t be placed in it, and apple balked and went to at&t. AT&T is now a wildly profitable company, all because VZW is too proud and too money-hungry to see the big picture of things.

    This app store business is more of the same from america’s least progressive wireless carrier. They may have a good network, but when they continue to limit people’s choices, they’re going to find themselves losing more and more customers, and it won’t take long.

  11. “Was really looking forward to Android on Verizon but if they seriously plan to limit users to its subselection of Android apps, they can get bent.”

    Actually, Verizon phones will ship with the Verizon store. But, as the article says, there’s no reason you can’t download the Android App Store application and run. It just won’t automatically be installed on your phone.

    • Anonymous

      And probably you won’t have permission to install Android App Store client on your Android phone either (through certificates)!!! So, you may not be able to acquire Android Store applications.

      • Anonymous

        This makes a very interesting point.

        Microsoft have publically said their Windows Mobile Marketplace application won’t be end user installable. Yet if its removed from the ROM for Verizon devices, how would you install it?

        Either Microsoft allow it to be end user distributable (which would raise questions of why they won’t support marketplace on pre WM6.5 devices, and why other OS components such as Internet Explorer couldn’t be distributed in a similiar manor) or Verzion devices would be stuck without a way to install the Windows Mobile marketplace.

        I can’t see Microsoft being happy with Verizon devices knocking a small chip off the device upgrade/serviceability story Microsoft have carefully crafted over the last few years, so this will be an interesting development to watch.

  12. Verizon Tarzan

    Verizon = FAIL. Who is the ambitious Verizon executive responsible for this goat rodeo. Clearly Verizon has too much money. The Justice Department should investigate how it is that Verizon cannot build a cost-effective, reliable, broadband digital network, but can spend time instead screwing around with me-too warmed over hash bites like this Verizon app store. What a bunch of nefarious jerks. I cannot even express my disgust with these monarchs who created WAP decks. As a rational developer, I would never consider developing anything for a Verizon appstore. Just the thought of it makes me want to hurl.

  13. Gotta love Verizon, the old school phone company mentality just won’t die there. They’ve been trying this for years and it’s failed miserably. Calling what ever Verizon already calls it’s on deck application market an App Store doesn’t change the crap they have

  14. dnndev

    verizon, can you hear me now – YOU WOULD HAVE TO PAY ME TO WRITE APPS FOR YOU….


    • Mishan Aburted

      We all know what you mean here, and point well taken, but I hope you also see the irony of saying “[Apple’s] app store is about choice.” Apple’s screwy app approval process and exclusivity in distributing iPhone apps is definitely not about choice and not that different from what Verizon is doing here. But Apple’s built a compelling platform for developers and is more trustworthy.

  15. bhk sdk

    Was really looking forward to Android on Verizon but if they seriously plan to limit users to its subselection of Android apps, they can get bent.

  16. “Verizon wants to build its own app store, and is planning a July 28 event to entice developers to *its platform*”.

    Uh? What “platform” is this??

    Agree with all of the above. Why do they even bother with a press release?

    • Mishan Aburted

      Yeah, not just dumb pipe, but dumber pipe. My experiences establishing very simple service with both Verizon and AT&T in recent years have convinced me that they’re dysfunctional companies. No wonder everyone hates them. Let’s break ’em up.

  17. 6outa7

    VZW has the best network but feels compelled to take draconian measures to avoid the inevitable dumb pipe status. They have always attempted to re-create the “company store” arrangement so popular in the Victorian industrial era. Unions broke the back of those benevolent overseers – net neutrality, regulatory oversight and, finally, informed consumers with choices about network value add will bring this kind of usability handcuffing to an ignominious end.

  18. Parkite

    Well, i bet Steve is quite worried about this. Probably working tonight formulating a plan to thwart Verizon. Seriously, is this some kind of joke? Is it April 1st?

  19. Anonymous

    I don’t see the logic of developing applications for VZW as it has only a small subset of total Smart Phone market. This seems to be a grab with very little to offer other than location APIs.

    • Stacey Higginbotham

      So the pitch is that developers don’t have to build for the Verizon platform. They build for one of the four supported platforms, submit to the Verizon approval process, grab an API to get the Verizon data if they want it, and then become part of the Verizon store that ships on VZ devices. Location data and billing info are the carrot. The stick appears to be that all vz phones will ship with the VZ app store to the exclusion of all others.

      • Tom Ross

        The pitch is: We will block Android’s and RIM’s and Microsoft’s and everybody elses app stores and whatever you thought you can sell on those stores you will have to register with us one more time.

      • “don’t have to build for the Verizon platform”

        Your ‘carrot’ requires you to do a special build just for Verizon. If anything, that just increases costs all around, because you need to QA everything separately, just for Verizon.