updated 02:25 pm EST, Wed February 16, 2011
ATT CEO wants app purchases across platforms
AT&T chief Randall Stephenson in an event at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday called for a system that let users keep app ownership across platforms. He argued it was frustrating that buying an app on one platform didn't give you the rights to the app on another. He saw solutions such as the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) or HTML5 as being better models, although few phones actually support WAC or use HTML5 in a major way for apps.
The executive cast it as unnatural and assumed that the basic feature phone model of Java or Brew-based apps was more representative of what AT&T users dealt with. "That's not how our customers expect to experience this environment," Stephenson said.
While the approach would prevent mobile app store lock-in, the push for WAC is primarily an attempt to revert control of app sales back to the carrier in the way it existed before the iPhone. Carriers have regularly preferred to run custom portals that let them control what apps and services customers are allowed to use. They have historically been opposed to any measure that would hasten the transition to becoming a "dumb pipe" like any other Internet provider.
Critics of the carriers' desired strategy have noted that taking the store out of their hands can potentially prevent them from banning apps that are competitive with their own services. Google has some control, but its decision to leave Android open for all parties has let carriers like AT&T and Verizon restrict what apps are allowed and what features will work.