May 18, 2009, 11:42 AM — Qualcomm Inc. today announced software that allows developers to bring mobile retailing to nearly any device on any network, offering mobile users a uniform shopping experience.
Called Plaza Retail, the software is an expansion of Qualcomm's previous Plaza software suite. It will provide a component to allow mobile operators and others to create a storefront for users to make purchases, said Arvin Chander, general manager of Plaza Retail in an interview.
Conceptually, a mobile carrier would be able to build and quickly update a mobile storefront for a sales promotion or other change that would be applied across all the different smartphones and mobile devices a carrier sells, Chander said. Some carriers have dozens of mobile devices on sale at any given time that run on different operating systems from several device manufacturers. The tool could greatly simplify what Chander called a "very painstaking process right now."
While there have been a proliferation of application storefronts launched, beginning with the iPhone's App Store, application markets usually only work for one device or platform, Chander said.
Ramon Llamas, an analyst at research firm IDC, said Plaza Retail will bring application stores to all kinds of mobile devices, not just smartphones, where application stores are prevalent today.
"Smartphones are the small minority of all wireless devices, but there are many other devices out there that are getting left out of this app storefront world," he said. Smartphones make up roughly 10% of all mobile devices globally, and about 20% in the U.S., he said.
Because of its history with the Brew application platform, Qualcomm is associated with a "ton of developers and a ton of applications that would be ready to go on any phone at any point," Llamas added.
The Plaza Retail tools will be available to developers this summer, and will start appearing on phones and other devices used by mobile subscribers three to nine months later, Chander said. Several operators and retailers have already begun using the tools in beta, he said.
The first platforms supported will be Java, BlackBerry and Brew, with Android support coming by the end of 2009 and native Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile coming next year, Chander said. There are no plans to support the OS X variant in Apple Inc.'s iPhone, he added.
Other components of Plaza Retail include an open marketplace for retailers, device manufacturers and publishers (often mobile carriers) to share ideas for bringing content to devices. In addition, a management center will help in providing details about pricing, packaging, promotions, placement and delivery across multiple platforms.
Llamas said Qualcomm appears to be marketing the Plaza Retail concept to wireless carriers that have been seeking ways to offer services of all varieties. "This helps bring the carrier into the equation as being important in the mobile retail concept, not just a dumb pipe," he said.