AT&T on Monday announced a new API platform and app store, called “AppCenter.” The online store will be opened later this year and will feature HTML5 software.
The store will sell wares for Android phones and iPhones. Unlike the Android Market or Apple’s App Store, the platform will be similar to a magazine-like collection of stories, according to AT&T, where users can find apps and also be pointed in the direction of other app outlets.
In addition to the store, AT&T will offer a new API that will give developers the tools to create MMS, SMS, location and bill-paying apps. Later, it hopes to add APIs for music, contacts storage, messaging, speech and other features. AT&T hopes the center becomes a one-stop shop for developers looking to expand their HTML offerings.
The company didn’t return our requests for comment beyond its public announcement.
Rise of HTML5
AT&T put focus on HTML5 for developers, stating it had potential but faced challenges breaking into the mainstream mobile app market. The company cited a prediction from Strategy Analytics that said by 2016, 85 percent of smartphones will run on HTML5 browsers.
“Right now, it’s hard to say an exact date, but one of the issues right now is building an app natively. You can’t really get the same level of polished feel of using a native app, and some of the integration isn’t there, and those things will change over time. It might be one or two, or maybe even three generations, but HTML is definitely the way things are going to move,” Ryan Matzner, director of strategy at Fueled, told the E-Commerce Times.
Although AT&T’s AppCenter won’t be a traditional marketplace like Apple’s App Store or the Android Market, those storefronts have the advantage of being first to the scene.
“For an app platform to succeed, it needs two things: customers and content,” Aaron Watkins, cofounder of Appency and analyst at GigaOM Pro, told the E-Commerce Times. “Now that AT&T has opened up the billing platform through these APIs, there is a chance they could succeed here. If AT&T wants to succeed, they need to make sure they can drive customers to their app store as well and be prepared to make a significant investment into promoting it. They will also need to work with the OEMs to have their app store as a pre-installed location on the handsets they sell.”
The platform also has an emphasis on development for cloud storage applications.
“Apps are moving towards being in the cloud and storing as much data as possible there. It makes sense for a number of reasons, mostly that people tend to be on a number of devices. All the most successful apps are used on the Web, a cellphone, a tablet and others, so storing on the cloud makes a lot of sense for those applications,” said Matzner.
However, since AT&T’s focus is on the emerging world of HTML5 development, it could have a leg up when trying to attract developers.
“HTML5 has a distinct advantage here in that there are tons of Web developers who already know the essentials of the platform, and are ready and willing to develop for it. Used as a base, this platform can also create apps for Android and iPhone,” said Watkins.
AT&T Holding On
For AT&T, that focus on HTML5 may have been a matter of holding onto its place in the mobile provider scene and making sure it doesn’t get passed over as the mobile market continues to evolve.
“AT&T doesn’t really have a choice. I don’t know if they’re doing this because they see an opportunity or because they want an app store and this is the only option they have. It really gets away from their core competency of providing mobile service,” said Matzner.
With services such as iMessage and other forms of communication that drift away from the more traditional phone minutes or text message allotments provided by carriers like AT&T, other forms of revenue are becoming increasingly important.
“We’re coming close to a world where users don’t necessarily need minutes or messaging plans,” said Matzner. “It’s getting to be a lot of data. That’s more difficult to monetize for the networks, and providers are coming from a decade where monetizing was easy to define. The iPhone disrupted that, and networks are having to adopt other strategies now.”