Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) is getting ready to court mobile application developers with two research and development centers on both coasts of the U.S. in hopes of helping apps run better on its prized network while being seen as a little more community-oriented than in the past.
Work is underway in both Waltham, MA, just outside of Boston, as well as downtown San Francisco, where Verizon invited several reporters Thursday to check out the progress of the facility as well as explain its motivations for creating what it calls an “Application Innovation Center” (the Massachusetts version is called the LTE Innovation Center). Basically, the idea is to help mobile developers understand how the basics of wireless networking can affect the performance of their applications, such as when a data connection is being handed off between two cell towers or when the phone or tablet is at the edge of the range of a fixed tower, said Brian Higgins, executive director of ecosystem development at Verizon.
Many app developers don’t necessarily design their applications with the real-world vagaries of wireless networking in mind, such as designing their apps to simply retry requests for data over and over again without necessarily understanding why the request for data may not be reaching the Internet, Higgins said. Verizon plans to outfit its centers with equipment that can mimic those types of situations so that developers can chart data on how their application handles those real-world situations and analyze ways to improve its performance.
It doesn’t sound like the labs are going to be part of any formal certification process, but rather a resource for developers looking for ways to improve their applications. Still, Verizon is a company obsessed with the performance of its wireless network, and for years was known for keeping tight control over any and all software running on its network lest performance degrade, much like what happened to rival AT&T (NYSE: T) when it launched the iPhone back in 2007 and 2008.
Times have changed, however. Verizon learned while building its 3G network years ago that “simply rolling out the network in a robust manner is simply not enough. We need to partner more tightly with developers,” Higgins said.
Verizon hopes to open the centers around early August.