Developers don’t actually care about mobile operating systems; they just want to reach people, said Jai Jaisimha, CEO of Open Mobile Solutions. Likewise, consumers buy devices based on their functionality, not the OS. With these two truths in mind, Jaisimha left his post as a vice president for AOL Mobile in the summer to start OMS, an open-source initiative aimed at making it easier for developers to build apps that can run on as many devices as possible.
Drawing on his experience at AOL, he is setting out to outline the essential platforms for developers, the best-of-breed providers for design, development, testing, porting, distributing, marketing and monetizing, and to create a marketplace for mobile app developers to form relationships and benefit from a top-down understanding of the market. “It’s not just taking one piece of value from the chain and moving on, but making sure there is overall success for application developers,” Jaisimha said.
When it launches in the first quarter of next year, OMS will give developers objective advice to understand what types of apps and business models make sense on what platforms. Jaisimha said that openness has changed the process because instead of focusing on how developers can make friends with Verizon, for example, the question has become how can Verizon befriend that developer?
Opening the door is a terribly frightening thing for any carrier to do, Jaisimha said. That’s why they are doing it very slowly. Some aspects of working with carriers are now open and easy, but some are not, he said. Developers have to deal with the network and quality-of-experience issues, as well as the not insignificant issue of fragmentation, but they now at least have the opportunity to do so.
“To a developer what it means is that all the sudden [operators] say they are open, but there is so much underlying complexity to take advantage of that new-found openness, which is about accepting content in a low-friction way,” Jaisimha said. “It still gives people pause because you have that ‘Gee, you are willing to accept my app, so I don’t have to spend six months trying to get you to meet with me,’ but I think that is the stages we are all in.”
More than anything, openness is the willingness of a carrier to accept new and interesting forms of content, he added. Consumers are being taught that choice of content is an important decision-making factor. Some apps they will use then spit out like chewing gum, while others will incite a fierce loyalty in consumers, he said. And while content used to be heavily marketed by carriers, the proliferation of app stores has put the onus back on the developer to make their presence known. OMS will also focus on helping developers address the important factor of adding value outside of front-and-center distribution.
“The fact that it’s in an app store doesn’t mean your problems are solved,” Jaisimha said. “You do get the assurance that the purchase process will be consummated, but there is no guarantee that people will actually come. … I think the complexity of app stores is eliminated — they are assured they will get distribution. Now the question is how do you get actual usage?”