|Issue:||Asia-Pacific III 2010|
|Topic:||Harnessing developer communities for telco apps|
|Author:||Dinesh B. Saparamadu|
|Organisation:||hSenid Mobile Solutions|
Dinesh Saparamadu, is the founder and CEO of hSenid Software International and the hSenid Group of Companies. Mr Saparamadu began his career with Aetna Life and Casualty, Connecticut, USA where he worked on client server applications development, in the Corporate IT area, in Enterprise Technology Services, and served as an Enterprise Technology Consultant. Mr Saparamadu then moved to PepsiCo, as a Software Engineer, and worked on Mobile Computing, Internet and Intranet Applications, and Middleware applications. Mr Saparamadu also worked at the Center for Telecommunication Research, at Columbia University, New York, USA on research projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Dinesh Saparamadu holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering and a Master of Science in Computer Science from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA.
Telecom operators need applications. To attract the developers and get the applications operators need a platform that facilitates innovation – a platform that stimulates idea generation, provides development tools, enforces best practices and provides a test bed where application developers can freely experiment. Since market penetration is the developer’s chief concern, a platform must offer a wide variety of ways to deliver applications to subscribers, including telco app stores, Web-based delivery and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) interfaces and more.
It is no secret today that applications developers are indispensible sources of innovation in the mobile industry are. Innovation can come from an average high school kid or specialised companies the likes of Mobiquest, all of which contribute to this rapidly growing industry. Every mobile application developer dreams of building the next cutting edge application and monetizing it. The success of a mobile application is based upon its creativity and its relevance to the intended audience. Furthermore, the uniqueness of the application, its functionalities and time-to-market all contribute to its success. A major challenge for telecom operators is to channel the creation of these applications that monetize network assets and accelerate the rollout of ‘telco apps’ which add value to their service offering. This means that telecom operators must have a platform that facilitates innovation – a platform that stimulates idea generation, provides development tools, enforces best practices and provides a test bed where application developers can freely experiment with their brainchildren. Enticing developers According to Mobile Developer Economics 2010, a study by Vision Mobile, 75 per cent of the developers surveyed identified market penetration as the most important reason to choose a developer platform – over and above its technical facilities. Compared to the makers of mobile devices or mobile operating systems, few operators have an overall global reach, but most of them have strong brands in their local markets, the ability to steer traffic via their networks and a great deal of knowledge about their subscribers that lets them target their offerings to their clients. This gives them a great opportunity to convince local developers to come up with applications suited to their surroundings. The diversity of the market can play a great role in attracting developers. Although the apps distributed by device vendors and those available on the mobile web have brought a rich wave of sophisticated, user enhancing, experiences, GSM coverage still provides unlimited opportunities to reach out to niche and mass subscribers alike. Operators should exploit network capabilities such as SMS – it is available on every mobile handset and nearly every mobile user understands how to use it. By using the full potential of their networks to build their markets operators can attract applications developers that cover everything from low-end to very high-end applications, operators can obtain the apps they need to serve a the broadest possible range of users in their markets . The convergence of technologies that operators deal with today provides multiple interfaces for developers to reach out to their audiences via bundling, packaging, cross-product opportunities, location based services, segmentation and profiling capabilities amongst others. The operator therefore becomes a unique and powerful channel for developers to collaborate with to sell their applications. Pricing and charging are underlying drivers of applications distribution. Developers of established application platforms have long been stuck with the limited pricing options of the pay-per-download revenue model. The operator can provide both developers and users with a wide variety of payment options including fixed price, recurring fee on usage, subscription based, and many others as well. Easing the developer’s task Of course, the platforms that operators provide have to be technically capable to handle what developers do best – develop applications. The Vision Mobile report states that the learning curve for the Symbian Platform is approximately 15months, but that it takes only six months to learn to work well with the Anrdoid Platform. A platform that reduces the learning curve significantly gives developers and operators alike a great opportunity. Mobile application developers need a simple and streamlined application development process to unleash their creativity and speed the development of novel applications. They want to create applications without having to pay attention to the technical details of telecom operator’s hardware or software. Developer-friendly operator platforms make it easy to harness the creative talent of developers who, although they may have ground-breaking ideas for new applications, find it difficult to surmount the technical obstacles involved. In addition to developer-friendliness, the availability of useful resources that facilitate the building of functional applications, sample applications, development tool kits and guides can all help inspire budding developers and speed the development process from creation to deployment and commercialization of the mobile applications. Marketing of telco apps Market penetration is a decisive factor in a developer’s choice of platforms. By offering a variety of ways to deliver applications to subscribers, including telco app stores, Web-based delivery and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) interfaces, applications will appeal to a larger and a more diverse audience and not only to smart phone users. The power of identity management options such as user profiling information coupled with network capabilities such as location gives developers the opportunity to better customize apps for distinct subscriber segments. Vision Mobile reports that the key challenge developers face is marketing their own applications. There are many reasons for this including widely dispersed markets. By working with operators, there is a better opportunity for developers to focus upon their own communities and interest groups and deploy apps specifically targeted to users they understand. Telco developer communities In a day and age where mash-ups are enriching consumer experience, best-of-breed mobile applications result from the collaboration of many people from all walks of life. Fierce competition has led individual developers to seek partnerships with larger communities of developers in order to develop better, more sophisticated, applications. This collaboration takes many forms – interactive online forums supported by technical counselling, developer workshops and networking sessions for idea generation, knowledge sharing, business partnerships and more all help create a vibrant developer community.