A consortium of mobile operators last month announced an initiative to create a common application platform to compete with commercial app stores.

The initiative, dubbed the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), was founded by 24 operators worldwide and is supported by handset manufacturers, including LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. It was announced at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

WAC’s objective is to offer developers a route to market that reaches the widest possible customer base and provides customers with as much choice as possible, according to its statement to the press.

The alliance will initially use the Joint Innovation Lab and Open Mobile Terminal Platform BONDI specifications for Web widgets to ensure portability across platforms. The alliance will merge those specifications into a common standard later this month, said Simon Lloyd, head of media relations for WAC.

WAC will work collaborate with the World Wide Web Consortium to establish that common standard, he said. It is too early for WAC to make any detailed comments about porting kits for hardware, but all options will be considered, he added.

Even if developers are following a common standard, it might become necessary for device makers to be responsible for the “last mile” (the native apps for a smartphone), as evidenced by Nokia’s experience with existing Web standards.

Nokia provides IDE plug-ins for its Symbian S60 smartphones to enable developers to create Web applications that use APIs to access a Symbian smartphone’s native applications, such as its address books and dialers.

WAC has earned the support of the Global System for Mobile Communications Association. “The GSMA is fully supportive of the Wholesale Applications Community, which 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 and board member of GSMA.

Global System for Mobile Communications is the most commonly used standard for mobile phone systems in the world.

“This approach is completely in line with the principles of the GSMA, and in fact leverages the work we have already undertaken on open network APIs [such as OneAPI],” said Conway. “This is tremendously exciting news for our industry and will serve to catalyze the development of a range of innovative cross-device, cross-operator applications.”

OneAPI is a GSMA project to establish a commonly supported, lightweight, “Web-friendly” API for mobile application development.