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Mobile Content: Harnessing The Potential Reliance Infocomm's developer program is creating new applications and nurturing talent

Though telecom industry is riding high on innovations, the service providers are undoubtedly trying to do things differently to provide the 'best' at the earliest to their customers. The fact that mobile applications would be the main revenue generator in the coming days, service providers are now getting into unconventional methods of application development. Reliance Communications has roped in around 19,000 independent developers that include individual developers and students.

?The idea is to provide platform to the budding application developers. We provide all the necessary tools required to develop an application. They also get the opportunity to test the product on our network,? sys Mahesh Prasad, president, Application, Solution and Content group, Reliance Infocomm.

There isn't any dearth of talent in the country, but identifying the person with the right skill sets is a real challenge. Reliance's initiative to build a content ecosystem is a win-win deal for both Reliance and application developer

Developer Network

Application developers, whether they run a development house, write codes or are into direct marketing of mobile applications, are aware that a good product requires a gateway to capture the best market share. This effectively means easier mode of working, a shorter path between ideas and revenue, and a direct connection to the information, tools, and people that can help them get there faster. Reliance developer contest fits perfectly in all these parameters.

The 19,000 registered developers include around 900 small and medium companies. Reliance has engaged over 50 companies and hundreds of individual developers and students through initiatives such as mobile application contest and university relationship programs to develop and market innovative mobile products and services.

Apart from receiving cash prizes, application developers feel encouraged with bit the terms and conditions of the contest laid down by the company. It ensures that the IP rights of the applications submitted, vested with the participants and applications commercially released on Reliance network, would be done on a revenue sharing basis as per the 'Standard Application Distribution Agreement'.

Revenue sharing has always been a bone a contention between service providers and content providers. The Reliance's developer contest doesn't have any revenue sharing component attached to the contest, but since the service provider doesn't own IP, developers have a fair chance to sell their product in the market. Also there is a separate category for students and corporates in the contest. The idea is to have competition among equals. The first category is for individual developers, partnership firms, independent software vendors, and companies, while the other is exclusively for students.

Enrolment Criteria

The student community has been enrolled into this contest through university relations program, which runs under Reliance's Developer Programme (RDP). The objective of this program is to engage the student community from the top engineering colleges in the country to develop JAVA /J2ME applications as part of their final year project work. It also helps Reliance establish relations with engineering colleges across India and provides an opportunity to promote RDP among students. Also, RDP gets quality applications with minimal investment.

The process is then followed by a written test in JAVA/ J2ME and mobile application idea for interested students. Students are also allowed to come up with their own ideas, or RDP may assign ideas for development. After selecting the students, RDP provides the required technical and development support on a continuous basis till the project is completed. Students send periodic progress reports to their supervisors who in turn, forward the same to RDP. In the entire process, students use RDP tech support lab for testing their applications. Students receive a merit certificate from Reliance Infocomm on performing well.

Similarly, for corporates and individual participants, Dhirubhai Ambani Development Program (DADP) has introduced a Charter Developer Program (CDP), under which companies are awarded contracts to build applications. The CDP provides these companies with an opportunity to understand the Reliance environment. These developers are registered with Reliance through its technology partners that include Nokia, Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems. Based on the outsourcing theme, DADP leverages Reliance's relationship with leading technology providers such as IBM, HP, and Intel.

Reliance has also tied-up with 'Forum Nokia', which is a global developer program of Nokia. It offers an opportunity to the winning developers to implement his application on Nokia's new handsets across the world. Other worthy contestants get certification from DADP and Forum Nokia. They will be free to sell their applications to other handset manufacturers or service providers. Reliance started DADP on December 28, 2002, with a mandate to develop a fraternity of application developers that would build applications around the Reliance Application Platform. The objective of the program was to have an active community of developers, in sync with the Reliance environment. Also who are able to conceptualize, develop, and deliver world-class applications, which would work seamlessly on the Reliance network.

Contest To Win

This year again, Reliance organized its second nationwide Mobile Application Contest between November 1, 2005 and February 28, 2006. The company has ignited the interest of hundreds of developers. The student community has shown keen interest. Over 60% of the total submissions in the contest were from the student community. An external panel of jury members drawn from technology companies and experts from IT and Telecom domain judged and selected the winning entries. ?To make it a transparent process, we don't involve ourselves in the judging process. The independent jury takes a decision on it,? adds Prasad.

There are some operators who develop applications in-house and Reliance has also developed some key applications in-house, but there it is not advantageous. Operators currently developing their own applications will eventually have to outsource them.

Independent application providers and students are indeed fortunate-having developed a range of applications, which is being heralded as the new wave of the promised new mass-consumer mobile data services. So far as the network operators are concerned, they have nothing to lose whether they own the IP of the product or not.

With 3G technologies on the horizon, application development could be the next mobile industry buzzword. As the possibility of new wireless applications is becoming a reality, a new breed of companies and independent developers is emerging.

Reliance has been successful in creating an ecosystem of application developers with minimum investment. It is undoubtedly motivating the developer community, especially students who are not directly linked to the industry. The company has cleared the path for independent developers who face hiccups in developing products. It's in search of true talent. Let the path be open to such talents.

Rahul Gupta rahulg@cybermedia.co.in

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