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Wouldbe Apple App Store killer WAC disappears into GSMA

The Once and Future best hope of the networks

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The Wholesale Applications Community has been voluntarily subsumed by the GSMA, selling off its technology and giving up its independence. The app store which never was will now never be.

The technology owned by the WAC, a platform-independent JavaScript-based runtime and a billing API with hooks into various network operators, goes to Apigee who already host services for the GSMA - so developers can continue to use them. Overcall control of the WAC goes to the GSMA and the organisation which once hoped to take on Apple ceases to exist as an independent entity.

Back in 2010 the WAC was established to provide an application platform, and an app store, under the control of the network operators. The organisation was formed from the Vodafone/China Mobile Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) and the OMTP's BONDI project, and had the public backing of all the significant network operators as well as the handset manufacturers necessary to make it happen.

But that public backing wasn't reflected in investment of resources or money, and infighting has dogged the organisation since its formation as intensely-political telcom executives replaced the engineers who'd set up the OMTP*, and the JIL, with the intention of creating a technical solution to a business problem.

Despite proudly showing a working clock on a Samsung Bada handset the WAC runtime was never widely adopted, so the focus changed to provide APIs for interacting with the hosting network, primarily the billing system, using the GSMAs JSON-based OneAPI.

That approach gained some support: operators already deploying the OneAPI could add WAC support with minimal effort, enabling mobile applications of all kinds (from web sites to native apps) to trigger billing events with the network operator. The WAC provided a pretty interface for developers, while the GSMA ensured the back ends all worked together.

But that also left the WAC thinner than ever, so thin that it has now vanished entirely. The GSMA is making noises about "an exciting new opportunity" and "accelerat[ing] the mobile applications market", but it's hard to see how the GSMA is going to attract the developers the WAC failed to seduce.

The WAC's APIs are being used, if not in large numbers, and the existing platforms will be maintained for the foreseeable future so there's no immediate change. But if in a year or two the WAC quietly disappears beneath the folds of the GSMA it's unlikely many people will notice, or mourn its passing. ®

*Your correspondent was one of those engineers, though titled an executive at the time.

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