Late last month, Verizon Wireless held an open developer conference down here in San Jose. The conference was notable, important, and relevant to you for a number of reasons.
Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Vodafone and Verizon, is the largest operator here in the United States, which up until now, had also been one of the most closed and opaque networks for the developer community. The application environment on devices has historically been Brew, and entering into any sort of relationship with Verizon was difficult at best. The company is in the process of making an 180 degree about face in terms of how it's engaging.
First of all, the developer conference itself. Prior to last month, the 'developer' program at Verizon provided no real information to the community until you somehow got blessed by a Biz Dev person from Verizon who allowed you behind the curtain. Now, there is a new developer site, with self registration and direct access documents, roadmaps and all sorts of other stuff. Also, in years past, Verizon had simply ridden upon the Brew developer conference which indirectly sent the messages that a) all of their developer environment was considered to be client side and b) they were not doing anything particularly special above and beyond the Qualcomm device platform. Verizon has now decided to take complete ownership of its relationship with you the developer, and welcome you in with open arms
Secondly, Verizon had for the past couple of years espoused the 'openness' of their network with the Open Development, where in theory any device would be allowed on their network, but this is more about vertical devices. Well, what they're doing now is really opening up for any application on the network in a big way. First of all, they're migrating to Java environments for application development, and exposing device APIs up through the Java Platform. Secondly, they're exposing network APIs that had previously been closed allowing web based and other applications to access subscriber information such as location and presence, and opening up the messaging channels for MMS and SMS. This opening of the network will expose the core assets of their platform: billing, location, messaging, and all those things that make them more than just a dumb data pipe.
Further adding to the fun, they're putting a new spin on application certification promising a target of 30 days from start to public availability for applications in their catalog, at no cost to you the developer. Add in a 70/30 revenue share on the retail price that you the developer set with a click through legal agreement, and it's clear that Verizon has finally turned the corner and is coming into its own with the developer community. Verizon wireless is also one of the companies signed onto JIL (along with Vodafone, China Mobile, and SoftBank). The type of activity and announcements at the developer conference made it clear that they're serious about getting it off the ground and functional.
So why this change of heart? Sure, some of the impetus is clearly the power and presence of the iPhone driving awareness. Some of it is also I think maturity. Verizon, as the largest operator here in the states, has been very guarded about its network, and rightly so treats it as its crown jewel. They've been understandably reluctant to fling the doors open, but seem to have come to a place where they feel their data network has been hardened enough, and the mobile app developer community has matured enough to take on an endeavor the size and scope of their subscriber base. Maybe they've also decided that now is the appropriate time as they begin to ramp up for their forthcoming LTE deployment over the next few years. Either way, we all stand to benefit.
While Verizon's headquarters are in New Jersey, most of the activity we're talking about here is being driven out of California, and they're talking about opening an innovation lab center here the Bay Area as well (not unlike what Orange has done) to get apps and developer on the LTE path early.
So what can you do today?
1) Register on the new Verizon Developer site http://developer.verizonwireless.com
2) Check out the slide and webcasts from the developer conference at http://vdc2009.com
3) The first 'open' client environments out the door are likely going to be RIM/Java and WindowsMobile native (just given the profile of the device on their network today). It's likely that the other open environments (Palm WebOS, Android) will be coming in the future, but there's nothing committed to, or on public roadmaps at this time.
Yes, there will be fits and starts and kinks to work out of the system as time goes on, but this is a pretty big step forward for Verizon and for the developer community.