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Verizon Opens Doors on Apps Innovation Center – West

Wed, 08/10/2011 - 1:29pm
Monica Alleven

Verizon Wireless President and CEO Dan Mead on Wednesday declared Verizon's Application Innovation Center in San Francisco officially open for business, with a pledge to encourage all ideas, presumably both good and maybe the not so good.

Even actor Ashton Kutcher was sort of on hand, if only virtually through his association with app search engine Chomp, whose CEO, Ben Keighran, was there (physically) to share his insights into working with Verizon. The event was webcast.

Verizon executives repeated their promise of a no-more-walled-garden approach, inviting developers large and small to use the expertise of Verizon engineers to create, test and deliver apps using the resources at the innovation center. The center is tied organizationally and network-wise into the Verizon Innovation Center the company launched in Waltham, Mass., last month.

Understandably, long-time wireless industry professionals who've worked with U.S. carriers and are acquainted with their sluggish nature of the past may be skeptical, but Keighran gave this bit of insight in a press release announcing the opening of the center: "Search is hard, but working with the Verizon team was incredibly easy. They moved quickly and were very flexible," he said. "Frankly, it was more like working with a nimble start-up than a large corporation."

Apparently, Verizon Wireless is ready to part ways with the old reputation and fine-tune a new one. David Small, chief technical officer, said the company recognized from the beginning that the potential for innovation is bigger than Verizon alone. The space on Spear Street in San Francisco provides working lab space with a replica of the commercial LTE network. Verizon launched LTE in San Francisco in December.

Participants will have access to services not available elsewhere and will be able to interact with experts in application development, Web services development, network application programming interfaces (APIs), network performance and business development.

Verizon announced its LTE plans and vendors at the 2009 Mobile World Congress and was clear about the need to open an LTE innovation center. Since then, even more wireless innovation has come out of Silicon Valley. Marni Walden, vice president and chief marketing officer, said the work done at the center will be felt almost immediately, not just by consumers but also in the enterprise space.

Last October, Sprint opened its M2M Collaboration Center in Burlingame, Calif., providing a place for partners to develop commercially viable offerings based on M2M.

Back to Chomp, the company announced in May that its app would allow Verizon V Cast users to search for apps across both V Cast apps and Android Market – exclusively for customers who download the app from V Cast Apps. The app lets users search for apps across multiple storefronts, and the apps are displayed by price, with lowest price shown first. Chomp for iPhone was launched in January 2010; Chomp for Android was launched this past February.

Kutcher – the one who's now the highest-paid TV actor, according to TV Guide, and soon to be starring in "Two And a Half Men"– is listed as marketing advisor for Chomp on its website. David Blei is technology advisor and Kevin Rose is product advisor. Investors include BlueRun Ventures and Ron Conway/SV Angel.

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