Alcatel Lucent exposes APIs and a Sandbox for Mobile Developer Support

Francisco Kattan, Alcatel Lucent

January 14th was a busy day of interviews for WIP! While Thibaut was in London, UK, interviewing GetJar; I was down in the Bay Area where I stopped by to have lunch with Francisco Kattan, Sr. Director Developer Ecosystem at Alcatel Lucent. I got a little lost and was late, but he graciously took the time to have this interview with me. He is a veteran in the mobile developer space, so I was particularly interested in his advice for mobile developers; but also to find out how a company like Alcatel Lucent, a traditional infrastructure player, was providing new opportunities for mobile developers.

Caroline: You’ve seen all sides of the mobile industry given your experience with Adobe, Openwave and now Alcatel Lucent; what has been the most significant change for mobile developers over the last few years?

Francisco: The last three years started a new era in mobile that elevated the stature of developers in the ecosystem. Devices are finally good platforms for consuming applications, the operator walled gardens are now open, and most importantly developers have access to distribution channels without the need for intermediaries who took a sizable share of revenue. In addition, we are now experiencing a formidable battle among the mobile platforms that although it increased fragmentation, it has created unprecedented competition for developer mindshare. The platform with the most developer mindshare will have a significant advantage in this battle. As a result of these changes over the last three years, developers now enjoy a much more prominent place in the value chain and this is reflected in the more generous revenue shares of around 70%.

Caroline: The concept of ‘mobile development’ and ‘mobile developer’ has changed significantly since Ai (after the iPhone). Developers must to turn to the ‘dark side’ and embrace marketing more than ever. What advice do you have for them about merchandising their applications?

Francisco: You’re right. This new “Ai” era has solved significant issues for developers (i.e. opened distribution channels and improved revenue shares), but it has also created new challenges. This era has created unlimited shelf space making it difficult for applications to be discovered. With tens of thousands of applications in the app stores how do your apps stand out from the crowd? Here is my advice to developers:

Invest in marketing. You can’t rely solely on the app store provider to market your application. Sure, if your app could get promoted on the app store carousel, you’re golden – but there are no clear rules on how to do this. Go back to basics: understand the audience you’re trying to reach, figure out the best vehicles (such as social networks) to reach it, and communicate your value proposition clearly. Watch your analytics and update you app and marketing plans accordingly.

Enrich your app with network capabilities. Don’t limit your app to device APIs. Operators are now beginning to open their networks with APIs that can help you differentiate so you app can stand out. As an example, if your game could bill for ammunition on the operator bill, you’d have an advantage. Many operators are also launching new app stores that are not yet as crowded so your apps can be discovered more easily. Although it’s been difficult for many smaller developers to work with operators in the past, this is an area where Alcatel Lucent can help and I hope we can discuss in Barcelona.

Caroline: Are there too many go to market options for developers?

Francisco: There are certainly a lot of app stores today. While the number of stores will likely consolidate, it’s important for developers to understand their target market and pick distribution channels accordingly. For example, some stores have a bigger presence in some regions of the world, some have more business users, some have more music lovers, and even some target different device types (feature phones vs. smartphones). I think you’ve done a nice job with your WIP App Store wiki to help developers understand the landscape so they can make informed decisions.

Caroline: Given the many different possibilities to create applications and reach a market - how can you and your team at Alcatel Lucent help developers be more effective?

Francisco: Alcatel Lucent makes it easier for developers to work with operators. Whether developers are looking for ways to differentiate their applications or for operator distribution opportunities, we can help. Operators have key assets such as billing, customer profile, location, and device capabilities that in the past have been difficult for developers to reach. We are helping bridge this gap. We help the operators expose these capabilities in the form of APIs and we help developers gain access to them without having to negotiate with each operator separately.

Caroline: Are there specific APIs that you are supporting right now?

Francisco: Yes. Through our cross operator cloud offering we’ve already deployed a set of location and geofencing APIs and many more will come. Unlike device APIs, these APIs support the entire range of devices, not just the high end devices, and don’t require that software be installed on the device. These advantages enable many more applications. We’re also already helping a number of operators expose these and other APIs to their developer communities in several regions of the world.

Caroline: What about the ability to trial applications? Can you tell us more about the Alcatel Lucent sandbox?

Francisco: Yes, we offer a sandbox for developers to develop and test their applications. Our developer portal also offers documentation, tutorials, sample code and support. Unlike other programs, developers can go directly from our sandbox to production without having to negotiate terms or be certified by the operators. Developers simply sign up to the service via our click-through agreement and they are ready to go.

Caroline: Where can developers find you at Mobile World Congress, and what should they ask you about?

Francisco: Alcatel Lucent will have a very prominent presence in Barcelona, as usual. You can find us in Hall 8 (stand 8A147) and also in App Planet (stand 7D61) where we want to meet with developers and show them how they can get involved. We’re also going to be at the WIP JAM, of course. (Francisco is a speaker on UnPanel #2 - Appstore Placement Optimization)

Developers should come to our App Planet stand to see what other developers have already created using network APIs, hear about our upcoming announcements, and discuss how to get started. I’d like to also encourage developers to arrange for meetings with us ahead of time using this link:

Caroline: For those developers that can’t make it to MWC – where can they find additional information about the Alcatel Lucent Developer initiatives?

Francisco: Our developer portal is at You can also follow us on Twitter and FaceBook.

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