Q&A: Verizon says it will be the first to offer 'true' mobile video

[Disclosure: This post is one of a series of articles sponsored by Verizon. The company has given us editorial freedom to write what we'd like. In return for us covering the company's developer conference, Verizon will be running ads on our site in ensuing weeks.]

Verizon just launched an app store called Vcast Apps, opening the door for developers to reach 1 billion consumers by working with the company’s software development kits and application programming interfaces. I caught up with Brian Higgins, who handles next-generation products and hardware for the mobile operator as Verizon Wireless’ Executive Director of Eco-System Development.

VentureBeat: You say you’ll offer a 70 percent revenue share deal to developers. How does this process work? You sign up at developer.verizon.com and provide basic information. What happens next?

Higgins: You register. Then you submit your concept. Then people on the business marketing team will look at it to make sure that it’s fine under standard checks. Once you pass that, then the code is submitted. It runs through our Verizon certification process. Then it gets placed on the deck.

VentureBeat: How much support will you give to developers ? For example, when T-Mobile announced the Sherpa application on the MyTouch device they launched recently, they were swamped by developers.

Higgins: Initially, everything will be done online through blogs and forums. This will be our medium once we get through the gate. We will see what kind of volumes we get and what kind of support people ask for. For example, there are a lot of companies that might like us to port [translate from one platform to another] apps. We could then decide to support developers by taking on this role. Initially, it will be light touch and as we learn, we will start changing things.

VentureBeat: Let’s talk about pricing. How do you feel about free apps?

Higgins: Free apps are fine.

VentureBeat: What is the exact business case you offer to developers?

Higgins: We have not run specific business cases for developers. We haven’t looked at specific costs related to dealing with us. Of course, we are not new in dealing with developers, given our involvement with BREW. As I said, we expect the model to be tweaked. We expect feedback will be brought up in forums and will happen organically. In turn, we will address concerns.

VentureBeat: One of the things we’ve been wondering about is whether there is day of reckoning coming for data-intensive apps. How will bandwidth affect the types of apps which will get through your application process? How will it change once you start rolling out LTE (Long-Term Evolution)?

Higgins: We know how much data costs us per megabyte. We need to take a look at each of these applications, case by case, to make sure that we’ve got applications which are completely upside-down relative to what we will be charging to consumers. Moving over to LTE, you will always have the same sort of sensitivities. There always be a cost of pushing these bits and bytes over the network, but it will just change significantly. It will be much more efficient to our cost structure to do that with LTE. So what we will ultimately see is much more latitude for video-based applications and data-intensive applications once we get to the LTE network.

VentureBeat: I understand your VCast technology around streaming mobile video is best of class in the industry. Is this the kind of technology you want to differentiate yourself with?

Higgins: We already have got applications which support this, so we don’t have anything to announce about this today. When we are further along with LTE, one of our primary focus points will be how we get more video onto the network. We believe that this will be the first high-end network which will support mobile video in a robust manner — true video. For today we still continue to have flexibility for streaming video on the network and we think it will only get better in future.

VentureBeat: You are reserving the right to upload “premium” content around music (ringtones, ringbacks) to specific partners. Will we see something similar for companies like CBS or NBC for mobile video?

Higgins: Possible. Everything is possible at this point.

VentureBeat: So you’re saying you’ll figure it out as you go along?

Higgins: Yes. Each of the apps will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Each of the categories of apps — games for example — will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

VentureBeat: Final questions. In your own words, what is the message you’re trying to get out to developers?

Higgins: The key area for us is that there will be dedicated support on the tech and business side. We’ll make sure that there will be mutual success for as many developers as we can support. That’s the big difference between we had until today and what we will have starting tomorrow. We had that so far with BREW, but we want to enhance that even further.

VentureBeat: How many developers and applications do you want to get at the end of the year?

Higgins: I hate to pick a number, because I don’t think this is the right way to handle it. It’s about getting the right amount of apps the consumers care about. It’s not necessarily valuable if I’ve got 100 000 applications in the store, but nobody cares about 99.9 percent of them. In general, we’re still working on rules and submission process. For example, we don’t want people coming back and sending us the same app over and over. For us, it’s about quality apps. We’d rather get the good, robust apps that will make a difference in people’s lives. We will not be fixated about high numbers.

VentureBeat: How does the advertising model for developers work? On the web site, it says “the Verizon Mobile Advertising team can assist in discussing the best monetization options for your mobile site or application.” What are the particulars on that?

This one is answered by Todd Murphy, Verizon Wireless’ director of business development: We obviously have mobile advertising relationships with partners, for example Microsoft. We could potentially work with those guys to publish an API to put into your app. Down the line we are also open to working with other potential advertising partners. We don’t have concrete recommendations related to this at this point, though.