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Will India ride the mobile apps boom?

Last updated on: August 25, 2010 14:38 IST

Will India ride the mobile apps boom?

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Exhibit

There is no doubt that today mobile phones are the most widely used electronic gadgets. It is something without which life would come to a standstill for the majority of mankind. It is one gizmo which has become synonymous with life and connectivity.

Since the advent of mobile phones, courtesy Dr Martin Cooper of Motorola, in 1973, the journey of these little portable devices has been a remarkable and unique one. It has been a long way for the antenna carrying cell-phones to go all touchy-feely today. And isn't that a unique dimension of today's communication?

Well, that's just not the end of it. The upcoming variation in the world of mobile phones is applications development or what the world now knows as mobile apps.

Let's explore the industry that is mobile apps and its future in India.

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Photographs: Exhibit
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What is mobile apps industry?

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Mobile apps is a process which enables cellular phones (and other portable or hand held devices like the iPad or Amazon's Kindle or India's very own Olive Pad) to download apps and software like music, videos, games, e-books and numerous other forms on your mobile handsets.

These apps may be preloaded on the phones at the time of manufacture or may be downloaded by the users later from apps stores or other mobile software distribution platforms.

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Mobile apps industry in India and abroad... and the Indians lag behind...

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While the mobile apps industry has been immensely popular and has a widespread market in foreign countries like the US, Sweden and Japan, India is still to catch the fever. The global market for mobile apps is huge and has been expanding faster than ever.

According to GetJar, one of the leading app stores worldwide, the global market of mobile-apps is expected to reach US $17.5 billion by 2012. With a growth of 92 per cent per year, downloads of apps would go up from 7 billion in 2009 to 50 billion in 2012.

Although the hysteria of apps industry has engrossed an international crowd, India is yet to catch up with the race. It's not that we are not progressing or the users are not indulged in heavy downloads of mobile apps. But the pace, though consistent, is slow.

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Mobile app industry is in budding stage in India

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As per Knowledgefaber, a prediction says that though India is lagging behind in the usage of mobile downloads and software uses, there is a vast market for the apps industry in the Indian market in the near future. And the time is not far when the window of opportunity would open wide to let the craze of apps industry swarm the nation.

Probably it would take a couple of year at the most to have the mobile servers jammed with excessive downloads and apps use. Mobile service providers like Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone and Reliance have already triggered the mania and the trend is just about picking up slowly.

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Here's what these servive providers offer on their apps stores:

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Airtel has launched its apps store named 'App-Central' in February 2010. The software is powered by Cellmania and provides more than 1,250 downloadable apps in around 25 categories like entertainment, e-books, games, travel, photography, themes, utilities and social networking sites.

Airtel claims to be the first in India with mobile market place.

Aircel's 'My Aircel' apps has been launched in January 2010 and can be easily downloaded in a Symbian or Java supportive mobile phone. It is just a touch away for both post-paid and pre-paid GSM services and one can have access to entertainment, sports, videos, social networking sites to name a few. This operator-based apps store has been created with the help of Infosys Technologies on the Flypp platform.

Reliance Communications said the first version of its apps store would go live for GSM customers by the end of February 2010, and by the end of March 2010 an expanded version would be available to its CDMA customers as well. The apps would be available through its data portal RWorld 2.0. It will be 3G ready data-portal with world class content management system supporting all the latest features available on mobile handsets.

Vodafone has also officially launched its Mobile apps Store in India. After its official launch on February 15, 2010, today Vodafone Mobile Apps Store offers over 800 apps under various categories like entertainment, utility, finance, social networking, games, etc. Vodafone has already introduced improved convenience features such as 'tabbed browsing' with 'Newest Apps', 'Top Apps' and 'Just for You Apps' which offer a customised set of apps as per consumers' preferences.

With the advances of leading operators in the world of apps industry, it won't take the others to follow shortly and the competition would result into an extensive growth of the apps stores and the market.

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However, we have to wait for more...

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Though India is on the growth curve in the mobile apps industry, there is still some time for the apps stores and the market to grow hugely popular as they are in foreign markets. The main reason behind this downward spiral in Indian market is lack of awareness. A majority of mobile users in India are actually ignorant of what mobile apps industry is!

Indian mobile users are mostly satisfied with basic apps like making calls, sending texts and MMS and at the most downloading themes, ringtones, music and videos occasionally. Downloading bigger apps and software is still awaited in the Indian market in a wider space.

Moreover, the Indian market and the users being price sensitive, the cost of downloading the apps has to be brought down by the service providers and the mobile manufacturers before more and more users get attracted to apps store.

A day would come when many of the apps would be available free of cost, but till then a considerable crash in the cost would do the needful.

The slow speed of 2G or 2.5G technologies is another reason for a low inclination to download software and apps. Though 3G has already stepped in, only state-owned operators BSNL and MTNL provide the service in metropolitan and big cities. While several countries in Europe have already started using 4G technology, India is still to get equipped with its processor 3G, and that makes a major difference in the influence of mobile apps industry.

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Some of the most prominent apps distribution platforms

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The digital distribution platforms for mobile devices mainly provide mobile software to mobile devices. The most popular apps distribution platforms are Apple App Store, Blackberry App World, Nokia's Ovi, Google Android and Palm App Market.

1. Apple App Store: Launched on July 10, 2008, with an estimated number of available apps of 225,000 (June 2010). The device platform used in App Store is iOS and it allows individual developers to publish content. The download count by July 2010 was 5 billion.

2. Google Android: Established on October 22, 2008, Android offers around 90,000 available apps. The download count of Android's apps is one billion by July 2010.

3. Nokia Ovi Store: Launched on May 26, 2009, Ovi provides 6,118 apps as on February 2010. The download count is 10 million. Symbian and Java based phones support the download from Ovi Store.

4. RIM App World: Started on April 1, 2009 by RIM, by June 2010, it had 7,422 available apps. The device platform is Blackberry OS.

5. Microsoft's Windows Marketplace for Mobile: Launched on October 5, 2009 it has 376 apps to offer. Supportive on devices with Windows Mobile.

6. Palm App Catalog: Palm/HP's apps market was established on June 6, 2009 and within a year it has 3,281 available apps. Almost 64 million is the download count via App Catalog which uses webOS as its supportive device.

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Few in-built/preloaded apps in mobile phones...

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Few in-built apps are social networking sites, search engines and video streaming websites. Symbian, Java or Windows mobile phones like HTC, Nokia or Samsung come with preloaded sites like You Tube, Orkut, Facebook, Hi5, Friendster and web browsers like Opera Mini, UCWEB, Bolt, .JIG etc.

Kudos, however, to Apple iPhone for its much wider variety of in built apps like multi-tasking, Safari browser, Weather app by Yahoo, Mail client, Navizon and of course iTunes.

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The apps situation in India

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The most popular and widely used among these are Steve Job's Apple App Store which allows users to browse and download apps from the iTunes Store that were developed with the iPhone SDK and published through Apple.

App Store is accessible from all the portable or hand-held digital devices by Apple like the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad via iOS apps. Apart from reaching several milestones since its advent on July 11, 2008, the download count has reached 5 billion as of July 2010... and that includes a high percentage of Indian users as well.

The other mentioned distribution platforms are yet to make their mark in mobile apps market, though they are all competing highly to reach out to maximum users.

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Every rose has its thorn... but who really cares!

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As they say, nothing can go without its share of negatives. It is true that mobile app industry is on a high rise and it would speed up faster than ever in the near future. Say, in a year or two, the apps industry would gonna have a boom.

But will the road to success be all that smooth for all? Perhaps no! Even if the apps industry reaches its epitome, other markets would have a serious downward spiral. As per a report, mobile-app downloads would grow at a rate of 92 per cent per year, and by 2012 the download count would be 50 billion across the planet.

Ooh, that's something! But with the rise in economic value of mobile-apps market, the value of CDs and DVDs would drop considerably. Call it the survival of the fittest that in the global downloads market, the apps industry would surely rule in the near future outshining most other entertainment media!

And if that's the case, the sale of CDs and DVDs along with their monetary values will have a steep drop. Not my words, but Chetan Sharma's (a technology and startegy consultant) and I am sorry to pen down that the day is not far when app developers would have a higher bank balance than that of the rock stars! The mobile apps market will be worth US $17.5 billion in 2012 which would certainly be way higher than that of CD sales with an estimated US $13.83 billion!

The Mobile Entertainment Forum or MEF suggests that the second quarter of 2010 will have 21 per cent of all mobile entertainment revenues from mobile apps industry only. Much of the credit for the boom in mobile apps industry goes to Apple Inc. App store which holds a high ratio in the apps business. With the iTunes stepping in to the global scenario, the entire device ecosystem has undergone a revolutionary change.

And needless to say, Google's Android is the new kid in the town and it would soon evolve as a market giant in the days to come... so be prepared!

Smartphones and smart users wait for smart apps...welcome!

India, being a trend following country, wouldn't take much time to open the door to embrace a full-fledged mobile-apps market. Give us time till a maximum of 2012 and we promise the world to make the apps industry overcrowded with downloads!

Be it the hype, be it the research or be it the growing awareness, Indian users wait for smart apps soon to make their phones as well as living smarter than ever before!



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