Last week Questex Asia staged its first AppXchange event, in which speakers and delegates examined the state of application stores, how they’re transforming the mobile sector’s approach to content, and what role – if any – mobile operators could, should and will play in the apps-oriented world.
Here’s what we learned.
1. Don’t copy Apple
Whatever a cellco’s strategy might be for starting an app storefront, the worst mistake they can make is to try and copy the Apple model. Why? Because Apple is in the business of selling devices, which is where the company makes most of its money. Cellcos are generally in the business of acquiring subscribers and selling voice/data plans, so their application strategy needs to be engineered to drive that.
“Operators are in a great position to win in the app store business because they’re sitting on a wealth of CRM data, direct billing relationships and a large subscriber base,” said Kelvin Lee, senior GM at Green Packet.
Colin Yeh, director of group innovations for QTel (and EMEA board director at the Mobile Entertainment Forum) said cellcos can be relevant to the ecosystem as a distribution channel, a payment channel and a marketing channel.
2. Premium apps pay peanuts
Cellcos should remember that selling premium apps isn’t the only way application stores can generate new revenue. Other options, said Mike Lurye, product marketing director at Amdocs, include providing a billing platform for someone else’s apps store, go-to-market services for developers (such as apps testing, hosting, marketing), and in-app commerce, including ads, which will eventually outpace revenue from downloads anyway.
Of course, cellcos need not start out with such broad objectives, said Navin Wathan, head of product innovations at Maxis, which recently opened its own app storefront.
“We initially saw our app store as just a refresh of the front end,” he said, “but we now see it as a bigger opportunity for developers to get involved, especially local developers.”
3. Developers respect money
If cellcos want to attract developers to their application storefronts, they need to show a clear monetization path – preferably in the form of billing APIs.
“It wasn’t until we looked at opening the billing APIs that developers suddenly showed huge interest to work with us,” said Ashish Thomas, director of SingTel Group Innovations. “After that, the program grew so fast we had to expand the team.”