Cable Labs Summer Conference “2009: Year of the App Stores & Development Platforms”

The Cable Labs Summer Conference was held at Keystone Colorado.  Its a gathering of the North
Amercia cable industry, its similar to the Mobile World Congress for meeting with many of the industry’s execs as you walk between meetings.  Given most MSOs do not directly compete, there’s lots of friendly and open discussions on technical and operational issues.  Topics covered in the conference include evolving cable networks for business services, 3DTV, HD Voice, online video, OpenCable home networking, and lots of Tru2way sessions.

I was invited to participate in the session  “2009: Year of the App Stores & Development Platforms” chaired by Mike Lee, CSO of Rogers.  Also on the panel were Jean-Pierre Temime from Orange and Curtis Knittle from Cable Labs.

Curtis provided an overview of the operator requirements in supporting an application developer community; including the specifics around the software development toolkit, submission and approval processes, and support of both the platform and applications.Jean-Pierre reviewed the fragmented nature of app stores, the different standards and operator initiatives in this space.  He presented Orange’s current strategy of joining the fragmentation; but also working closely
with stores such as RIM, Microsoft and Nokia to create their “Shop within a Shop.”  Enabling Orange to sell their branded apps on their branded and subsidized phones across a number of platforms.

I presented on “Developers and Operators,” shown below. In the presentation I reviewed some results of a recent survey of application developers showing the exodus of application developers from operator initiatives and the focus on consumer electronics and OS stores.  I also reviewed the emerging app store ecosystem, described in this article, higlighting the importance of ingestion management.  And the limitations of operator development communities; hence the importance of working with existing developer communities such as Java, Symbian/Nokia, Microsoft, RIM, Android, etc.  I wrapped up with a few key issues:

  • Direct customer access is critical, this is what developers care about most;
  • Network APIs are not that relevant, except for enterprise apps;
  • Enterprise store is quite different to the consumer store in both business model and developer engagement;
  • Importance of demonstrating developer success in your community;
  • Up-hill struggle MSOs have thanks to developers’ focus on the consumer electronics and OS stores;
  • Avoid charging developers, share in the revenue stimulated; and
  • Avoid the term open in naming the initiative as it will be considered an oxymoron by most developers.

In the panel discussion there were lots of questions around network APIs, how to bring developers back into the fold, and the importance of Java in enabling cross platform applications.  The final question was, “In 5 years time what are the chances an operator will become a bit pipe?”

  • Jean-Pierre reviewed the importance of customer relationship, identity and billing relationship in maintaining operators’ relevance as service providers, hence sees such chances as slim;
  • Curtis focused on MSOs, if they can accelerate their rate of innovation then 10%, while if do not change then the chance jumps to 95%; and
  • For me, the situation in Europe as currently pivotal, hence I thought the chances were 50:50; while in North America because of the closed platforms and restricted competition the chance is around 25%.