Friday, February 10, 2012

AT&T making strategic - and smart - bets on HTML5 and the cloud

You want to know who gets the convergence of mobile, social, the internet and voice?

It’s AT&T.

In recent days, the American giant, the heir to the Ma Bell monopoly, came out with two distinct yet strategically related moves into both HTML5 and the cloud.

With HTML5, AT&T has created a new API platform that will allow developers of web-based apps to include SMS and MMS in the app, take in-app payments charged directly to an AT&T bill, as well as integrate with AT&T’s U-Verse TV. The company is also opening an AppCenter app store on Android phones, so users will have a way to discover HTML5 web apps, says GigaOm.

HTML5 is important for operators, both in their consumer and enterprise offerings, and AT&T has long been frustrated by platform fragmentation. A standards-based web technology would solve that problem and put operators in a better competitive position against companies like Apple, Google, RIM and Facebook that look to own the customers on their respective platform.

HTML5 has been the best alternative to native apps for a good while, but its performance still frustrates developers, and it still lacks that breakout hit to trigger “boom time.” Oh yeah, and everyone thinks HTML5 is hard to monetize.

AT&T can help change both that perception and reality.

At the same time, AT&T made two “ambitious” moves into the cloud by launching CloudArchitect, a cloud infrastructure as a service model aimed at developers and small business, and by being the first US telco to sign on to the OpenStack initiative, an open-source cloud project started by NASA, among others, in 2010.

Providers have been courting developers for years. And here we see an operator trying to grow into the internet, and not locked into one strategy. Where the company thinks it can make money more or less itself – in the cloud – it aims to own it. But in web development, it is opening up to others.

Of course AT&T has its own ambitions on the web.  But instead of limiting itself by only pushing its own things, the company is embracing the creative forces of the Internet to maybe help it discover the next big thing.

It is not either or.  It is about doing both. And this multi-pronged strategy ensures AT&T multiple revenue streams from developers, enterprise clients and end users.  It is good business, and it is necessary business, because the market is moving too fast for anyone to stand still.

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