Network operators eye HTML5 for getting into the app store business

iTunes App Store, Android Market, and Windows Mobile Marketplace

Smartphone operating systems and their related app stores effectively cut the mobile network operator out of the value chain, but mobile browsers are giving carriers a foot in the door.

Mobile carriers continue to attempt their own branded app stores to break into the app store goldrush. Just today, Japanese network operator NEC Biglobe launched Andronavi in the United States, saying that it's a better app store than Google's Android Market because it provides reviews and detailed information specifically from the Japanese audience.

The ability to provide app developers with very specific user data is extremely important, but because carriers generally offer smartphones on numerous platforms, opening an app store for each one would be a costly and unwieldy endeavor.

However, mobile browsers and the growth of mobile web apps are giving carriers the option to create cross-platform stores that also let them harness all of their anonymized data like device type, location, and behavioral data. It opens new doors for content targeting and monetization.

One needs only to look at T-Mobile USA's Android phones to see this in action. When you launch the browser for the first time in a carrier-branded Android device, the default homepage is T-Mobile's If you are connected to a wi-fi hotspot, T-Mobile does not have access to your location or behavioral data, and the site is intercepted, telling you that you do not have access to Web2Go or Downloads and that "you must temporarily disable your Wi-Fi connection."

Tuesday, California-based software vendor Openwave announced Aplicity, an HTML5 development solution targeted at network operators who want to create browser-based app stores that are compatible with all of the latest smartphones.

While cross-platform compatibility is certainly an important issue for carriers, the biggest benefit of this solution is all the harvestable user data it offers.

"Operators have always been an essential part of the internet ecosystem, and the data they possess is the key to beating over-the-top players in the battle for consumer mindshare," said Dan Nguyen, Openwave's vice president of product management, Ecosystem. "Openwave Amplicity allows operators to open up their networks to developers and third-party content providers to ultimately create smarter applications that rely on contextual information."
Openwave is responsible for Sprint's attempt at "browser-based value-added services" which it launched last October and called the "Sprint Services Framework."

The company says it's giving mobile operators a chance to "eliminate the friction of the app business" by giving developers more granular user data and therefore better monetization options.

Openwave Amplicity will be available to carriers some time within the first quarter of calendar 2011.

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