MWC 2013 is annual piligrimage for Mobango team as it gives us opportunity to understand deeper the developments in the App ecosystem. We caught up with developers, ad networks, service providers, and meeting our business partners.
The overall environment this year was more muted than the last year with key players such as Google missing. We saw several product launches, new ad networks being set up, new ways of promoting apps on main appstores, but there was no breakthrough or moon-shot innovation this year at MWC. However, from amongst the 100+ meetings that our team had at MWC, these were the key takeaways for the developer community.
3 new OS launches, absence of Android at MWC
The most significant launches were those of the new operating systems from Firefox OS and Tizen from Intel and UbuntuTouch – three new OS platforms. Firefox OS had aggressively lined up a large number of distribution deals at the event with partnerships with carriers and device manufacturers; however Ubuntu Touch as a product was equally impressive. There was limited presence of Tizen though at the Intel Booths at MWC. At Mobango we are particularly excited about the launch of Ubuntu and Firefox as these will no doubt bring in benefits of an open source, low cost OS platforms and capable of developing into independent developer ecosystems. While Ubuntu Touch had particularly strong reviews of its capabilities from leading tech blogs including CNET, Firefox OS appeared to have progressed much ahead on its roadmap even announcing first set of countries that the new devices will be released in 2014.
In stark contrast Google and Android were absent with Google likely choosing its I/O event in May to release its next version of software – Key Lime Pie. However, with the recent merger of the Chrome and the Android businesses within Google, I/O will be an event to watch out for in May 2013.
For the app developers, we saw some innovative technologies which will definitely scale down the timeframe about testing for any developer. An Isreal based company displayed their public cloud service with maximum phone environments which allowed developers to rent these phones by time. Another interesting technology displayed by a UK-based company allowed developers to automate the test for Android devices, record the clicks and go through the playback.
Others worth mentioning are Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and the fascinating technology displayed by Yota, with its second screen feature. This expansion into twin screens opens up a playground for apps and services alike and it would be interesting to think what new services might be enabled when a low power always-on display became available on a smartphone.
New developments and innovations that support cost effective distribution
We think that developers will benefit with the mid-range devices introduced enabling distribution if they are high on capabilities despite their low price point.
The tablet industry is set to improve with Samsung, Sony, Asus, Lenovo, HP and ZTE launching their new tablet devices. Hopefully this will improve the Android tablet story. The overall tablet eco-system needs improvements in terms of app development and experience as Google Play does not have compelling number of apps that are suited for tablet as compared to the Appstore. This is a good development though as it compels app stores to dig deeper in this issue.
Another point for developers as alternate distribution points are being set up. Besides the native apps stores such as Google and Apple, start-ups such as Yandex in Russia, Apps Turbo and of course, Mobango has been a long term partner in the app economy.
Besides South Asia, Africa was given high emphasis as the mobile connections are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% between 2012 and 2017, increasing from 683 million in 2012 to 935 million in 2017. These new markets are open to test and will enable developers to prolong the app cycle.
Distribution and monetization partners
From what we saw at the venue, the ad network space is set to increase with the number of new entrants and will get all the more competitive for monetizing opportunities. Along with the buzz of products and technology, this year’s MWC also saw ad networks like Inmobi, Airpush, comScore, Appturbo, Imobmedia, Vserv, Inneractive and several others making noise. Our take is that currentl there is little differentiation amongst the offerings from these different ad networks and in general fail to provide comprehensive monetization solutions. Increasingly app owners we spoke to are simply using mediation services to maximize their ad monetization and working with multiple ad networks at the same time. Disappointingly we did not hear much about some of the latest innovations we are already seeing in the web world such as Demand Side Platforms or Supply Side platforms. Looks like we have to wait another MWC before we significant traction.
There was much debate, atleast amongst operators regarding monetization of OTT services. Operators are losing out on usage and monetization from these OTT services which includes popular messengers. Several operators are launching their own OTT platforms but these are all early experiences. Operators are keen to explore partnership opportunities with OTT products and service providers that will prevent cannibalization of voice and messaging revenues in a big way. A recent report put OTT services already taking away upto 8% of operators voice and data services with messaging being the most under threat. What this could mean to the emerging app owners is simply that they could find interesting partnerships with telecom operators who are looking to aggressively partner with app owners to counter the risk to their core revenues.
All in all it was great show of technology, innovations and products. We think the implications for developers and advertisers are immense with innovations brought about expanding the arena for innovative business model. And operators too are pitching in to create a holistic environment for the smartphone users. Overall, the coming time promises to be an exciting period in the world of mobility.