Vodafone has confirmed plans to enter the mobile application space with an online store and cross-platform developer kit, and said that developer partners will be able to charge for applications and services through its customer billing system.
The carrier announced today that it will make available a software development kit (SDK) that will enable developers to create applications that will run on any device sold through Vodafone's network. An as yet unnamed online store for Vodafone customers to purchase applications and services is expected to go live in the autumn.
"Vodafone aims to foster innovation by creating an ecosystem for customers and developers," said the company's European chief executive Michel Combes.
If a developer wants to deliver content on any device today, they have to build a version of the application for each platform, which limits the number of applications that can be produced, he explained.
This will benefit developers and customers, according to Vodafone. Developers benefit because they need create an application only once, and customers benefit from a much broader choice of applications and services.
Another plus for customers is that they will be able to have services charged to their Vodafone account rather than having to disclose their credit card details online.
"We will provide internet content players with a cost-effective micro payment system," said Combes. "Customers might be able to pay for just one article they want, for example, or subscribe to a service for a limited period, unlike what's available on the net now."
Developers will be given access to special application programming interfaces that will also enable location-aware services, according to Vodafone.
"This will enable them to fine tune or present new options depending on where the customer is," said Combes, adding that additional network capabilities may also be opened up to developers in the future.
All the tools developers require will be available soon from the Joint Innovation Lab web site, an initiative Vodafone shares with Verizon, China Mobile and Softbank.
Pieter Knook, Vodafone's director of internet services, said that Nokia's S60 platform will be the first to be supported by the new SDK this summer, but he expected others such as Windows Mobile and Google's Android to be added soon.
Compatibility is "more a function of which browser" is on the handset rather than which operating system, Knook explained, and Vodafone had focused on Opera's mobile browser first.
While vendors such as Apple, RIM and Nokia all have their own application stores, Vodafone claimed that it is the first carrier to do so. However, O2 announced its Litmus site in February.
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