You heard the story: Two dozen Rip Van Winkles wake up one day and decide that it would be a good idea to band together to defeat the evil monster in the forest. They lounge about, wring their hands, have a beer, perhaps two dozen kegs of beer, and then, in a moment of sheer brilliance, name their holy alliance Wholesale Applications Community (WAC).
The first word of their first collective action, wholesale, ought to tell us all we need to know about the likelihood of their success. Like shoveling commodities to the hapless consumer, “without distinction” as the dictionary would put it. Because for the Rip Van Winkle alliance, software is just like sacks of commodities. You load them up on a truck, send them to a depot someplace and you’re done. They call it, “Load’em up once, ship’em everywhere.” After all, rice is rice “without distinction” whether you’re in India, China or Japan, right?
It gets whackier at WAC’s manifesto site: wholesaleappcommunity.com, and yes, that’s the URL.
If you believed the fantastic and utterly bogus numbers generated by VCs and the peddlers of the first generation of mobile phones about how many billions of WAP phones would eclipse traditional wired access to the Internet just any day now, then you’d be very comfortable with WAC’s claim:
Will establish a simple route to market for developers and provide them with access to a customer base of over 3 billion customers.
Some access. Just how many of these 3 billion phones are in fact capable of running, say, smartphone-class applications is of course a minor detail, as we’re dealing with wholesale commodities after all. Here’s a thought: either these carriers “own” these 3 billion customers in which case developers for whom WAC was supposedly created get shafted or developers own those customers, which we know won’t be the case as there’s no incentive for the carriers.
Then comes the biggest bludgeon only a giant Rip Van Winkle can murderously handle:
The alliance aims to unite a fragmented marketplace by involving players from all related industries to create a community based on openness and transparency to the benefit of all.
Yes, you read it right, “openness and transparency to the benefit of all” by phone carriers. It is a terrific idea to bring into this pitch phone carriers’ biggest asset: openness and transparency! But that’s not enough. To rally openness advocates something else has to be bolted on:
We believe our model presents the most compelling format on the market where developers will thrive and customers will reap the benefits of greater choice.
Of course, choice. By the traditional champions of choice, phone carriers no less! Because, truth be told we just don’t already have enough choice in phones or mobile OSes.
WAC’s ambitions know no bounds:
…access to the latest and widest range of innovative applications and services to as many customers as possible worldwide.
This alliance will deliver scale unparalleled by any application distribution ecosystem in existence today.
It’s wholesale in case you forgot. This could go on. Forever. So let’s cut to the chase:
In practice this means that developers will only have to create one version of their application and this can be used on multiple types of devices and operating systems (such as Symbian, Android, Windows etc) which is not the case today.
Here’s a challenge to WAC: if you believe in this fantasy, or more likely if you want developers and users to fall for it, why don’t you design a mobile operating system that works on all devices not named iPhone or iPad and be done with it. Kill them all and replace them with your grand unifying OS. Until then, you can wade through search results for why “Load’em up once, ship’em everywhere” never works…on your 1.5-inch phone screens.