Verizon Courting Developers with App Innovation Center in San Francisco

In a bid to be competitive and court developers, Verizon Wireless will be opening an App Innovation Center in San Francisco, California, scheduled to launch this summer, where developers can congregate, test ideas, and develop innovative solutions. The carrier had invited a number of local and national press to the site, which is still under construction, and I got a chance to see the App Innovation Center and Verizon’s ultimate vision for it.

Right now, the area’s a hard hat zone, meaning that it’s just concrete, steel, and not much else. However, once it is completed, there will be three laboratories where developers can test out their apps in a lab that simulates the conditions of the carrier’s real-life 4G LTE network. That means developers can test how their apps interact with the towers, what effects the app would have on battery and device performance, and other conditions.

Verizon is saying that they will provide support to developers to foster app development. The center will be available free of charge to developers. The center will host app development on a platform- and device-agnostic basis, and Verizon says that developers are not obligated to just releasing apps for Verizon devices. In fact, if developers want, they can release their apps for a broad variety of carriers, but the center will serve to aid developers in fine tuning their apps to the carrier’s 4G LTE network.

For Verizon, which has a history in the past of maintaining tight control over its network and the devices that are allowed onto the network, the App Innovation Center will help the carrier’s teams of engineers look out for emerging apps that may be bandwidth intensive and help those developers fine tune the app so that it runs with good performance. This way, if a streaming app, for example, were to be developed with the App Innovation Center, Verizon would know ahead of time what types of apps are being developed and could help developers to minimize the bandwidth the app would consume while still providing an excellent user experience to the consumer. While the carrier can guess what types of devices and technologies will be gaining mainstream traction, so far the carrier is often blind sighted by the types of apps that will become popular. By being aware, the carrier can help adjust its network and resources appropriately.

For example, when it comes to devices, the carrier had correctly predicted the onslaught of smartphones for its network and worked to double the 3G network capacity in 2010 followed by a similar increase in 2011. Additionally, while it is growing its 3G network capacity, Verizon is also actively working on increasing network capacity for 4G LTE and the App Innovation Center will serve to help developers fine tune their apps for the network. Hopefully, what this means is that the situation where streaming video apps were not allowed on 3G on the iPhone with AT&T would not be encountered in the future. For those who may not recall, AT&T and Apple had blocked a number of 3G streaming apps from initially working on iOS when those apps first launched, including Netflix, the ABC app on the iPad, and also Slingplayer; that situation has since been resolved and there was a report that Sling Media had worked with AT&T to optimize the 3G streaming video so that it wouldn’t be so network intensive to get Apple to approve the 3G-capable version of the app into the App Store.

It’s nice to see Verizon thinking ahead and providing a service to developers. The San Francisco App Innovation Center will work in conjunction with the LTE research labs in Massachusetts. Hopefully, we’ll see some great apps coming out of those labs.

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