Update: AT&T buys mobile development company Plusmo

The carrier plans to use its development platform to create more applications and widgets for phones, PCs, and TVs

AT&T has acquired mobile-application development company Plusmo and plans to use its technology to more quickly build applications and widgets for mobile phones as well as PCs and TVs.

Privately held Plusmo sells a platform for building widgets and applications using common Web development standards, which allows them to be deployed across multiple operating systems and devices. The company will become part of AT&T Interactive, and its development platform will be used by multiple AT&T subsidiaries, the carrier said in a press release on Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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AT&T has already developed some of its own mobile applications, including the YPmobile derivative of its YellowPages.com service. Wednesday's acquisition will help the carrier develop new applications more quickly and at lower cost and allow for over-the-air updates of its applications, the company said. AT&T said it also aims to use the technology to develop applications and widgets that work across mobile phones, PCs and TVs.

Plusmo says it offers a service that delivers more than 20,000 mobile widgets to consumers. It has also developed numerous sports-oriented applications offered on several platforms. The company has relationships with handset manufacturers, publishers and carriers, according to AT&T.

The carrier's initial agenda for Plusmo will be focused on AT&T Interactive, according to spokesman Michael Coe. AT&T Interactive's core offerings are those around YellowPages.com. There are YPmobile applications for the iPhone and some other smartphone platforms, which expand the features beyond those available on the mobile Web. AT&T will use Plusmo's platform to develop such YPmobile applications for more handsets, including feature phones, Coe said. Plusmo should help streamline the carrier's development process, he said.

Later, AT&T may use it to develop other mobile applications, and beyond that, widgets that work across phones, PCs and TVs, he said. AT&T is not a major developer of applications itself, but it does create tools that leverage its core competencies, such as an application for remotely programming a DVR (digital video recorder) for the AT&T U-verse landline video service.

Plusmo's main business today is providing a platform for third-party mobile developers (including consumers) to develop widgets, and a service that makes those available to other users. Its development platform is based on Web standards such as XML, XHTML, JavaScript and CSS. AT&T wants to let Plusmo maintain its relationships with other carriers, as well as handset makers and content publishers, but details are still being worked out, according to Coe.

"One of our goals is to deliver a compelling and consistent overall app experience across operating systems and devices so that more people can benefit from all the innovation occurring in the applications space," Coe said via e-mail.

Founded in 2006 and based in Santa Clara, California, Plusmo has just 13 employees, all of whom AT&T intends to bring into its organization, Coe said.

Plusmo's revenue most likely would amount to just "a rounding error" for a giant such as AT&T, but its development technology could help solve the expensive challenge of producing applications for the many different phones a big carrier must support, said In-Stat analyst Frank Dickson.

"There's no way AT&T can force its entire customer base into a handful of handsets," Dickson said. With widgets, a developer can create one set of underlying capabilities, make sure it works well and reliably, and simply adapt it to the various platforms rather than writing separate applications from the ground up, he said.

This story was updated on September 30, 2009

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