Using the Web as a multi-play Apps platform


Lately, I’ve been seeing more discussion about distributing Apps to various devices. For example, an article in Connected Planet entitled “Do Web App Stores Matter In The Age Of Mobile Apps?” (the title reminds me of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” which I’m surprised Google or Motorola haven’t tried to borrow yet).

There are lots of pieces to this discussion. There’s the apps- and content-centric discussion: how can the same apps be cross-purposed and used in multiple consumer devices. There’s an operator-centric discussion: how can apps and content be commonly managed and distributed in a more efficient way? There’s a network/planning-centric discussion: How can a service provider do a better (faster, less expensive) job of app and content distribution than a data-center-based CDN can?

I think the Web makes a good common denominator as an interface that consumers can use to acquire and manage apps and content within a multi-play service environment. Mobile smartphones, TV set-tops, PCs and game consoles can all access and display the Web, and there’s less of a need to develop a separate app for every blessed mobile and portable and PC and set-top platform. Develop once, and time-to-market improves. Good argument for Android as well, come to think of it (except for, come to think of it again, the game console and PC parts, since Android doesn’t run there).

A Web-based common interface benefits the service provider too: a Web based store as a common single point of purchase, and a common platform that could associate purchases with devices and entitlements and make sure that the right content and apps go to the right entitled devicees.

As a consumer, if I were subscribed to ABC Service Provider’s TV, mobile smartphone and ISP services, I could sign up for their TV Remote DVR feature using the consumer-facing online storefront. Upon registration or purchase, the associated apps could be pushed to my set-top, to my PC and to my mobile phone, so I could use any of those devices to set up recordings that I can watch when I get home. Or, if the content is hosted in the network cloud, to watch whenever and wherever I want. As a consumer, one point of contact and automated distribution add up to convenience.

As a service provider, it’s a way to leverage common resources to save OpEx and maybe even CapEx. This is going to be a very active discussion. This is part of the future that we’ve used so many awkward acronyms and terms to try and describe. One of my favorites is ICE (Information Communications and Entertainment), which says everything, yet nothing. It’s really well-intentioned and after you think about it for a minute, it’s a good acronym. But would your Uncle Don know what it is?

I’ll be writing more about this over time.


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