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Telecom Companies Plan Unified Mobile Platform

In an effort to challenge the growing power of Apple, Google, RIM, and other mobile market leaders, a group of 24 telecom companies at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain announced the formation of an alliance to create a unified platform for mobile phone applications.

The group includes America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind. It says it has the support of device makers LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

The Wholesale Applications Community "will build a new, open ecosystem to spur the creation of applications that can be used regardless of device, operating system or operator," said Rob Conway, CEO of GSMA, in a statement.

Never mind that Adobe already sees its Flash platform in that role or that Google has positioned its free, open source Android operating system in that role. Ignore for a moment Apple, which dominates the U.S. smartphone space with its iPhone, and Microsoft, which is making a play to get back in the smartphone game with Windows Phone 7. Forget that the Symbian OS has just gone open source, don't worry about Web apps, and don't mention Java.

Rather than building on any of those platforms, the Wholesale Applications Community aims to address the fragmentation in the mobile market using the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) Widget Initiative and the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP)'s BONDI, SDKs that will eventually form the basis of a converged W3C-approved development platform.

It's likely to be months however until the group can point to any concrete accomplishments.

In an interview with The Guardian, Google VP of engineering Andy Rubin expressed skepticism about consortium's ambition to build a write-once, run-anywhere platform.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt struck a more conciliatory tone at the Mobile World Congress, proclaiming that the time of opportunity is at hand and reassuring mobile operators that Google isn't out to turn mobile service into a commodity.