WAC folded into GSMA as Apigee buys tech assets

The Wholesale Applications Community, a mobile operator alliance focused on the creation of a web runtime environment for device and OS agnostic mobile apps and the wide scale provision of network APIs to developers, has sold its technical assets to specialist firm Apigee. Meanwhile the GSMA has announced that it will absorb what remains of WAC, just two years after it was created.

WAC was conceived as an extension of the Joint Innovation Lab project established by Vodafone, Verizon, China Mobile and Softbank, itself tasked with the creation of an operator-controlled alternative to the application ecosystems engineered with such success by Apple and Google.

While WAC attracted a fair number of operators and vendors as members, it faced a huge challenge in trying to gain ground on the established ecosystems.

As far back as September last year, operator executives involved in the project were conceding privately that the JIL’s original aim of a web runtime that would allow the creation of apps that were device and platform agnostic was probably no longer the most sensible priority and that the opening of APIs to developers of native applications on an industry-wide scale might be the better bet. That this contradicted the founding fundamentals of the JIL suggested realism had trumped optimism in the operator community.

“In off-the-record conversations, operator execs involved with WAC admit that the initiative doesn’t have much of a chance of directly attracting a large and diverse mass of developers,” wrote Informa analyst Guillermo Escofet in October 2011. “And they add that, although WAC might not be saying so in so many words, it too is aware of the problem.”

This goes some way to explaining the lack of WAC-led commercial activity. While there were one or two isolated examples of deployments, most notably in the Philippines and Korea, compatible app stores, handsets and applications were conspicuous by their absence. Western operators have shown little interest in the web runtime project, Escofet told

From the outset WAC was challenged by a subdued response from the developer community. “WAC didn’t do enough outreach and most developers are very cynical about any operator initiative,” said Escofet, “which is justifiable, given past experiences.”

Despite WAC’s faltering progress, Apigee has pledged to continue both the API exposure and the cross-device mobile app development platform streams of the alliance’s work. It will offer solutions from both projects as managed services to the GSMA and its membership.

The absorption of WAC into GSMA runs contrary to original plans, which sought to very clearly disassociate the WAC brand from the GSMA, said Escofet. It remains to be seen how much traction the WAC projects will command in a far bigger organisation, with a far wider remit.

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