Remember Palm, Symbian, Java, and Blackberry? AT&T Dangles Incentives for Non-iPhone, Non-Android Mobile Apps

Perhaps eager to remind software developers that the Apple iPhone isn’t the only game in town—or even its only game in town— AT&T is sponsoring a contest for New England-based makers of mobile applications for competing platforms.

The so-called “Fast-Pitch New England” contest, which was announced yesterday and runs through September 30, will end with the selection of one $10,000 grand prize winner and two $5,000 runners-up. The winning applications will be featured for one month on AT&T’s Developer Central website and at its consumer applications showcase,, and will be reviewed for possible distribution through one of the company’s application download portals, such as the AT&T MEdia Mall.

Only developers who live in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont are eligible to enter the contest, which will culminate in a November 12 ceremony at the Sheraton Framingham where three teams of finalists will demonstrate their applications before a panel of judges (hence the “fast-pitch” moniker).

It’s the first time Dallas-based AT&T (NYSE: T) has sponsored an application development competition specific to one region of the country. “The tech community is thriving here and we’re pleased to be able bring attention to a talented application development company in the local area,” Steve Krom, vice president and general manager of AT&T’s wireless operations in New England, said in the company’s announcement.

iPhone applications are specifically barred from consideration in the contest. (There are, however, several other competitive funding opportunities for developers of iPhone apps, including the “iFund” administered by partner Matt Murphy of Menlo Park, CA, venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.) And AT&T is not a member of the Open Handset Alliance that Google has organized to contribute to its open-source Android mobile operating system, which explains why Android developers are also being left out of the contest. (Google is offering its own cash prizes to the developers of the best Android apps.)

Instead, AT&T is asking software developers to submit applications that run on the non-Apple devices that the company sells, including those based on the Java, Palm OS, RIM Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile operating systems.

AT&T said in its announcement that the contest is designed to underscore the company’s commitment to “offer more choices than any other wireless company”—which is another way of saying that AT&T sells more than just iPhones. “Maximum customer choice is what real openness is all about,” said Krom. “Programs like Fast-Pitch New England help ensure that customers have the best applications at their fingertips.”

The Massachusetts Tech Leadership Council, the Massachusetts Network Communications Council, and the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) are partnering with AT&T to sponsor the November 12 finalist demonstrations in Framingham. The national version of the Fast-Pitch contest has yielded such applications as Ascendo Fitness for Java, Symbian, and RIM Blackberry phones, and My Local TV News Over Wireless, which works on all phones with mobile WAP browsers.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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