Vodacom is launching a multi-platform mobile application store at the beginning of September. The company says it wants to help foster a local app industry and provide apps for both feature phones and smartphones. But does the move make sense?
SA has a long history of being left out in the cold when it comes to Internet-based services for local technology products. Microsoft’s Xbox Live, which allows users to play against one another via an Internet connection, arrived years after the Xbox hardware went on sale here. And Apple’s music store still isn’t available.
The question is whether local companies should really be building alternative avenues to apps rather than simply facilitating access to existing ones. Isn’t this merely a duplication intended to earn operators a piece of the revenue application sales generate.
“There is a need for an app store and local apps now and [it needs to be a store] that the most people possible can access,” he says, adding that Vodacom Apps is not about duplicating foreign content but rather about encouraging the creation of locally relevant apps.
He says SA is a unique market because of its unequal literacy, numeracy and Internet literacy levels and “there is a need for local apps that will fill the niche”.
Uys says Vodacom is also eager to offer apps to devices other than high-end feature phones and smartphones, particularly locally relevant ones, because “there are 10m customers with Java-enabled phones on the Vodacom network”.
He says there is a distinct shortage of local developers with the skills needed to drive app development and the company’s initiative is meant to provide local developers with the skills and support they need to remain globally competitive.
Vodacom may, however, find that getting developers to work on platforms like Android to develop local apps is far easier than enticing them to create apps in Java — a phone platform that is beginning to disappear in developed markets.
For now, Vodacom has no plans to offer services beyond apps, such as music and video content, using the platform. Spokesman Richard Boorman says that wasn’t the motivation behind launching Vodacom Apps. However, he won’t rule out the possibility that it “could happen in time”. — Craig Wilson, TechCentral
- See also: Vodacom chases a slice of the app pie