Mobile operators reached out to application developers on Thursday at Mobilize, a conference that brought together the main parties interested in making the mobile Internet a success.
Carriers are loosening their control over devices and applications in hopes of getting a stake in a gold mine of innovative products uncovered through high-speed mobile data networks. While the iPhone remains the standard according to most speakers at the one-day San Francisco conference, Apple's and AT&T's rivals have their own plans to pull in valued subscribers.
T-Mobile USA highlighted its DevPartner Community, now in beta testing, which is designed to slash the time and effort required to get an application on the fourth-largest U.S. mobile operator's phones.
"Historically, as carriers, we've been very difficult to do business with," said Venetia Espinoza, T-Mobile's director of mobile applications and partner programs, during a panel discussion at the conference.
Typically, developers who want their applications offered on a carrier's phone typically have had to get them approved, or "signed," by the carrier and for each device individually. It has been difficult just to find the right person to deal with and then taken a long time to negotiate a business agreement, Espinoza said.
The DevPartner Community includes an open rate card listing the financial terms for delivering applications, and a "click-through" agreement in which developers can read through a set of terms, click "yes" and have a deal with T-Mobile, she said. The arrangement won't cover all types of applications, so T-Mobile's traditional system is still in place, but the carrier is committed to easing relationships with developers, she said.
"What used to be months, we hoping will take days," Espinoza said.
T-Mobile also is expected to be the first carrier offering a phone based on Google's Android platform, set to be announced next Tuesday.
Rich Miner, group manager of mobile platforms at Google, lamented the hassles of traditional development for phones earlier in the day. There has been no way for small developers to predict their future, he said.
"If you're a small developer, for each handset, for each carrier, each market, you've got to do the signing a number of times. ... You start adding up the resources that you need to get over all of these hurdles, and they become pretty unsurmountable," Miner said.
Android, which will become open source around the time the first Android handset comes out, is intended as an easier platform for developers to work with, he said. However, most observers see continuing fragmentation as Android joins a growing list of mobile platforms and Google allows a large degree of customization.