WAC Whacked: Telecom-Backed Alliance Merges Into GSMA, Assets Acquired By API Management Service Apigee

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Apigee, the API management company that was most recently spotted powering that new “print to Walgreens” feature in half a dozen or so mobile applications, is now acquiring the technology assets of WAC, aka the Wholesale Applications Community. WAC, an alliance of global telecom companies, like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Deutsche Telecom, China Mobile, Orange, and others (and pegged by TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid back in 2010 as “a disaster in the making“) was intent on building a platform that would allow mobile developers to build an application once, then run it on any carrier, OS or device. The group also developed network API technology, which is another key piece to today’s acquisition.

WAC itself is now being folded into the GSMA, while its assets and the personnel behind the program (14 or 15 folks) are being acquired by Apigee. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Apigee CEO Chet Kapoor confirms that there are no new investors as a result.

WAC was started at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2010, and was backed by 60 operators and others involved in the mobile industry, including Samsung, Intel, Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Fujitisu, NEC, HP, HTC, LG, RIM and more. Notably absent? Apple and Google, of course – the makers of the app store successes which WAC aimed to topple with its web runtime technology.

WAC’s web platform used standard technologies like HTML, JavaScript and CSS and built upon the work of JIL (the Joint Innovation Lab, another joint venture between operators). In short, it was a bet on web standards besting native applications – which, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But the HTML-based WAC applications were limited – they couldn’t access the phone’s hardware, like the accelerometer or gyroscope, for example. And they didn’t appeal to developers, already too busy building apps for iPhone and Android, and maybe BlackBerry or Windows Phone. Not surprisingly, no WAC apps have yet to launch.

Kapoor agrees that the web runtime was not well thought out. “It’s a noble cause, but it needs to be clear what purpose it serves,” he says. “There are a certain set of operators that are very interested in the web runtime. We’re going to work on converting it to HTML5 and making it more relevant to what developers are doing today,” he adds.

But there was another big component to WAC’s technology, and it’s an important piece to today’s deal. “[WAC] created what they called network APIs, and the first they implemented was the payment API across operators, and that was in beta,” explains Kapoor. “That project was based on Apigee…and that program will continue,” he says. This API allows customers to pay for digital goods on their operator bill, aka “carrier billing.” The API is in development now with AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, KT, LGU+, SK Telecom, Smart Communications, Telefónica O2 and Telenor, and an additional 12 operators.

Of course, many operators are already offering their own APIs, and the M-API, as this payments API was called, will not replace those, says Kapoor. “Every operator will still do their own API program – what we’re talking about is providing API interoperability,” he says. The program will also be expanded to include other carrier APIs in the near future, he notes.

Meanwhile, founding WAC member GSMA is also now officially partnering with Apigee to provide its services to the GSMA’s 800 mobile operator members. WAC itself – or whatever’s left of it outside of its technology and its people (that’s um…?) – is being merged with the GSMA.