In Saudi Arabia, local operators Mobily and STC have just held conferences for developers of mobile applications. Mobily’s two-day event offered workshops on new media, digital platforms and Islamic applications, among other things, and a $90,000 prize for the top three developers. Microsoft, Samsung, and RIM sent representatives. STC described its conference, which was organized in collaboration with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and the Bader Young Entrepreneurs Program, as the first event for female Google developers in the Gulf region.
We’ve been talking for some time about the importance of leading-edge apps to MNOs that want to make sure they don’t end up as mere conduits for data. With this in mind, we think it’s a great idea for operators to take the initiative in fostering app development, and events such as these in Saudi Arabia, which gather top talent, are excellent ways of doing so. However, just fostering development is not enough – we’ve been counseling operators to make sure their apps are exclusive, tailored to local markets, and pre-installed on smartphones. A good example is the set of automotive-related apps that Vodafone Romania has created for the Bucharest market (see Story of the Week, 28 November, 2012). While Mobily is clearly on the right track with its interest in Islamic apps and the regional focus of its conference, the developers there are likely not creating apps for that operator alone.
In general, the best path for operators to follow is to have exclusive, top-rung apps created that will benefit subscribers in their day-to-day lives, thereby reinforcing commitment to the operator. Furthermore, they should incentivize developers by offering them an ongoing revenue stream tied to the success of their apps instead of a one-time fee per project. By following such a strategy, operators will help ensure that they stay relevant as value added participants in the mobile marketplace.