Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Exposing assets for enterprise apps is a key to API success for operators

Could it be time for operators to stop chasing the long tail?

The “long tail” consumer app market is worth billions, providing more than a billion smartphone users services such as Google Maps, Twitter and weather reports.  At the same time, there’s been a lot of talk about how operators can expose their services through APIs to take advantage of this smartphone boom.  And, in fact, operators have been exposing SMS and payment capabilities for several years, with some success though not yet for significant revenue. 

But we believe the revenue is out there, though perhaps not where most people are looking – Google Play or Apple’s App Store.  Instead, for at least the short term, we argue that operators need to shift focus to the “short-tail,” that is, exposing assets for enterprise apps, either B2B or B2B2C. This means working with fewer, yet closer, partners that integrate operator APIs into their complete service offerings.

Enterprises are, of course, being transformed by the same web-based solutions as consumers. New technologies and operator cloud offerings enable more contextual communications on a scale impossible to imagine before. But you can’t just translate consumer business models to enterprise.  Engaging and integrating with enterprise solutions requires a sharp focus on improving productivity, business processes and a company’s reach towards its customers.

With new standards such as WebRTC and HTML5, application development has been made exponentially easier, and some examples of enterprise-apps include video collaboration (including document sharing), voice control of apps even while talking on the phone and a range of medical applications.

However, operators also can’t ignore their current developer networks. They need these in order to scout for developers with the ability to create successful apps, and telecom-enabled long-tail services can also be valuable for an operator aiming to generate new revenue from API sales, gain additional revenue from increased traffic, reduce churn or increase network efficiency.

This diagram sums up nicely our vision for how the service exposure business should look :

We've previously highlighted AT&T’s innovative efforts in exposing assets and encouraging developers and have closely followed on Twitter the OneAPI effort from the GSMA.

And once again, AT&T is at the forefront of thinking about service exposure, this time as they shift towards enterprises.  In a recent interview with FierceMobileContent, Laura Merling, vice president, ecosystem development and platform development at AT&T, said "AT&T has always been focused on the enterprise. But now we are saying that this business is an extension of our business."

This means the American telco giant will make APIs available to select enterprise customers that aren’t available to consumer-facing developers, such as security for a financial services company. Merling also said the central challenge in this new initiative will be developing tools for other companies, rather than finished AT&T products.

That’s a big change in mindset, but it’s an important one, as operators reach towards a more flexible and innovative future.

By Bodil Josefsson for The Voice on Telecom


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