Dancing Slowly with Elephants. The Death of WAC.

Finally, someone was prepared to speak on WAC, pity it wasn’t the GSMA or WAC itself before the deal went through to demonstrate respect to the developers they keep talking about.  At least Apigee has declared the 5 year odyssey of WAC and JIL dead on arrival (2008-2012).  See the article here from TechCrunch, and a prescient article from TechCrunch on WAC being a train wreck back in 2010.  Its interesting TechCrunch picks up on Apigee and not the GSMA PR.  The Linkedin group on Telecom APIs also has several discussions on the status of WAC over the past few weeks:

“Linkedin is a revealing tool, as people ask for references, as job titles change, as email addresses no longer work, much can be drawn from such social business activity. And it looks like WAC has more or less closed its doors given the exodus of people and once known that have become unknown email addresses. Why is nothing being said to the developer community? Things are carrying along as if nothing has happened given the emails released to “WAC developers” over the past couple of weeks? Is this fair or morally responsible to developers? Is it even legal to lead people along given such uncertainty? How can the telecom industry possibly co-operate with other industries if this is how we treat people? What can be done?”

So now we know.  “WAC itself is now being folded into the GSMA, while its assets and the personnel behind the program (14 or 15 folks) are being acquired by Apigee. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Apigee CEO Chet Kapoor confirms that there are no new investors as a result.”  It wouldn’t surprise me if Chet negotiated for WAC/GSMA to pay him to take on the assets!

The key challenges:

  • Cadence: WAC moved far too slowly, the WAC run-time was simply overtaken by HTML5 and they didn’t respond.
  • Dancing with Elephants: WAC was a telecom standards group not a real commercial entity, it was not structured nor empowered to deliver success.
  • Lack of understanding: The API business is very different to telecoms, I’ve talked about this at length in this weblog and in the
    Services Domain report.
  • No skin in the game: Some WAC people appear to be going back to their operators at the same level or with a promotion, there was no skin in the game from the people involved.
  • Systemic Arrogance: If you don’t make something better you’re not relevant.  We have no choice but to buy telecom services from the few state sanctioned telecom providers.  But we have a choice on whether we use telecom APIs or telecom app stores.  The arrogance of assuming people will buy because of your brand does not apply.  All senior executives working in telecom companies need to spend some time on the supply side where the answer from the customer is usually either no or inaction.

So where do we go from here?  The GSMA OneAPI gateway continues to run in Canada, but it’s unclear how that relates to the assets Apigee has taken on.  Operators continue their own initiatives, which makes sense with appropriate focus.  Keep an eye on the restarted Deutsche Telekom initiative led by Thomas Moersdorf, there is a discussion here in the Linkedin Telecom API group on one of their recent announcements.  It’s clear elephants dance too slowly to keep up with cadence of the developer market.

A critical question the operators in developed markets need to ask is, “Should they give up on the long tail as they are no longer relevant?”  Which is where only 20% of the value to them is anyway, the bulk of the value is further up the tail as discussed in the presentation on “Making Telecoms the Essential Spice of Every Business Ecosystem: The Slow, Painful Rise of APIs in Telecoms“.