mocoNews - Verizon Wireless Looking To Woo RIM and Windows Application Developers

Tricia Duryee
Friday, July 10, 2009; 6:00 PM

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) is restructuring the way it works with some application developers, which will be important as handset makers launch their own storefronts and form direct relationships with developers. Verizon will unveil the new program at the end of the month at its developer conference on July 28 in San Jose, said Ryan Hughes, Verizon's VP of business development, partnerships and innovation.

Initially, the new program will be aimed at Windows Mobile and BlackBerry developers, but will be expanded to other platforms, including Android, as the carrier rolls out phones using that platform. Obviously, Verizon has some pull with developers since it is the largest U.S. carrier with more than 86 million subscribers and is capable of providing a distribution system that would span multiple handset makers.

-The perks: As part of the new program, Verizon will offer developers access to its billing platform and location information. This means, developers will be able to charge subscribers using their Verizon bill, rather than using a credit card or other form of payment. In addition, the app will be able to see where the user is, allowing it to provide more relevant information. These are two things that handset makers can't necessarily provide. Besides technical offerings, Verizon also promises to speed up the approval process by creating standard online form. (T-Mobile USA started a similar program last year. While there's a few differences, the two have the same goal in mind: quicker time to market).

-The opportunity: Hughes said Verizon never spent a lot of time building storefronts for smartphones because historically most of the devices were purchased by a user's company and they weren't allowed to buy applications or ringtones. In the last year or so, that has changed, and many more of the smartphones are being purchased by consumers, who pay for their own bill.

-More details coming: Hughes would not be more specific on how that apps would be delivered to the consumer, and whether that meant they were going to launch a new app store, or how the revenue would be split with developers-those announcements will be made at the developer conference. But because RIM's Co-Chief Executive Officer Jim Balsillie will be speaking at the event, it brings into question whether Verizon will have a role in RIM's new App World, or if Verizon will be building a competing option. Likewise, Verizon will have to deal with the same thing when Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) rolls out its app store later this year. Hughes: "We don?t think the best experience is to have two mirror image stores on the phone...Verizon will have its own distribution that will court developers and work with Microsoft to pull the developer community into the Verizon experience."

-Response to iPhone?: Is all of this a response to Apple's iPhone? Hughes says not really. They've been offering content for years-it's more about the emergence of the smartphone. Verizon is participating in what's called the "Joint Innovation Lab," which is a consortium between Verizon, China Mobile, Softbank and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) to create a single global platform for developers. Hughes: "The combo of what we?ll announce on 28th combined with the Joint Innovation Lab will put ourselves at the forefront of developer friendliness."

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