O2 Litmus: Better than the Apple App Store
A major buzz source at this MWC has been developer communities and telco APIs - as you can probably imagine, Telco 2.0 is more than pleased about this (especially the number of companies involved that are current or former customers of ours). For a start, there's the GSMA-backed OneAPI effort, where our friends at Aepona have been standardising a developer API based on Parlay-X Telecom Web Services. James Aitken, who will be familiar to some Telco 2.0 event participants, demonstrated its location capabilities live on Tuesday.
Although the GSMA was keen to describe OneAPI as an easy way into mobile for Web developers, it tends to be a truth about development that the fastest feedback wins. Powerful scripting languages won relative to strongly typed ones. Web interfaces increasingly win out over GUIs. RESTful Web services APIs have become a de facto standard instead of SOAP and XML-RPC, largely because it's just a URL - you can experiment with them directly in a browser or from a command line and see instant results. IntelePeer, which is a handy model for this because it has a private VoIP switching infrastructure with extensive developer APIs, sees about 95% of function calls coming in on the REST interface as opposed to their PHP library.
So we expect much activity with OneAPI coming soon. It's great news that a standard exists, and the GSMA deserves credit for taking a lead on the issue. But, as we've said so often, it's not just the APIs - it's the terms of business, toolchain, support, community, distribution and everything else around it. Standard APIs are necessary but not sufficient.
Step forward, O2 Litmus. This is O2's effort at a developer ecosystem; it's truly impressive. The offering includes access to network APIs, technical support, sponsored hosting, forums, and a motivated user community. How motivated? Litmus members will be paid for checking out beta projects and filing suggestions and bug reports. The idea comes from Mob4Hire, a Canadian firm that's been doing this for PC applications. O2 will also offer help marketing and distributing applications, and pay out 70% revenue share from their app store, with a guarantee of payment within five weeks. (Take that, reverse billing SMS! - and for that matter, the Apple App Store...)
The real payoff for O2 is that it gets to see which applications and services succeed; rather than trying to guess, they can simply observe, and push the hits to their mass subscriber base with the full marketing resources of the company. If that wasn't enough of an opportunity, here's another feature of Litmus - a resident team from Telefonica's internal VC unit.
Which reminds us - we're in the depths of a vicious recession, everything is cheap, the banks have no money. But telcos still have strong cashflow. It's a great time to pursue opportunities, and this is one of them. There is already a VC drought on, but we can expect funding to dry up for a lot of innovators - are you ready to step in and invest in the future, and particularly in making sure you've got a future?