Alcatel-Lucent makes OpenPlug application development tools free

Alcatel-Lucent is offering OpenPlug application development tools to developers free of charge to encourage cross-network applications for smartphones, tablets and other devices.

In an effort to attract more developers to its Application Enablement program that focuses on the network as the platform, Alcatel-Lucent is making its OpenPlug Studio available for free. 

[When using OpenPlug] the calendar time for development is the same, but the savings in resource time is four-fold.

Rob Rusher, principal consultant, On3

The hope is that the change will encourage developers to use the OpenPlug platform and tools to create applications for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices from a single code base.

For wireless operators, the advantage of Alcatel-Lucent’s Open API Platform is to leverage the network as the application platform, as well as become part of the app-driven revenue stream.

“Enabling applications to run on multiple providers’ networks makes operators with limited geographic scope more attractive as partners to developers,” said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. “While the Open API programs acts as an umbrella for providers and developers, the bad news is that developers haven’t rushed to this process.”

Nolle added that offering OpenPlug application development tools free of charge lowers the cost of entry to zero in terms of tools. Time will tell if free makes a difference.

For Rob Rusher, principal consultant for On3, a software consulting and training company that has created applications for a long list of large enterprises and startups, OpenPlug tools were already essential to him a year before Alcatel-Lucent acquired it in September 2010.

“Using Open Plug, I can write an application that runs on iPad, Symbian, Android and Windows Mobile with one set of code,” Rusher said. “It saves me resources, because typically a person who writes for one language doesn’t know the languages of another. So [using OpenPlug] the calendar time for development is the same, but the savings in resource time is four-fold.”

On3 is also the first certified North American OpenPlug solutions provider, and Rusher will spread the OpenPlug word at conferences and conduct training in the U.S.

Provider awareness of application development need grows

In terms of growing service provider interest in the application platform, Laura Merling, Alcatel-Lucent senior vice president of Applications Enablement Strategy, sees a big difference in the past year. “There are still things they’re hesitant about, but we went from slow growth to having more field trials than we can handle,” she said.

Alcatel-Lucent’s vision of open platforms and development tools that save developers valuable resources has competition, particularly in the global Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) that was formed by global telecom companies and organizations. WAC launched in 2010 to expand the applications market by giving developers an opportunity to write applications that can be deployed across multiple platforms and operators.

“My hat is off to WAC because it has educated the service provider community,” Merling said.

Enterprise apps grow in importance in app dev ecosystem

In addition to its focus on attracting more developers to its program, Alcatel-Lucent is focusing app development on the enterprise more than the consumer market.

“We’re seeing enterprises that want to mobilize their staffs using smartphones and tablets, and enterprises that want to partner with services providers,” Merling said. Enterprises are essential to the app dev ecosystem because most of the 14 million developers worldwide have day jobs, and many of them work in corporate IT departments or software companies, she added.

Rusher can testify from personal On3 experience on the growing enterprise interest in mobile apps for their employees. On3 lists well-known companies and agencies including FedEx, Overstock.com and the Social Security Administration.

“Anybody who’s looking in this economy to really emerge stronger in their industry is looking at rich apps, not strictly mobile. They want a better user experience,” he said.

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