There was a strong focus in MIPTV on mobile applications. Undoubtedly, the launch of the iPad is causing a stir with reactions ranging from the enthusiastic (everyone is announcing an App for iPad) to the fanatical (the iPad will be the saviour of [fill in the blanks]). The Middle East should be an ideal ground for new applications to be created and downloaded given the young population and the relatively high 3G penetration in some markets. However, the region is drastically lagging behind the world.
We don’t have the “sexy” platforms. The iPhone and its accompanying App Store have been the primary catalysts of application development. The iPad is ushering in a second wave of development while Google’s Android is leading an Open Source attempt to “liberate” applications from Apple’s devices. However, in the Middle East, our smart phones are dominated by Nokias and Blackberries. The former has had little success with its Ovi store while the latter, by most accounts, is very cumbersome to develop for. Neither has the region developed a proprietary environment for applications and services as happened in Japan. Although iPhones and Androids will continue to increase their market share, they are too expensive to achieve the same level of penetration as in other markets where operators subsidise the handsets. Finally, even if someone develops an application, they will find it hard to find customers who have the payment methods to enable them to generate revenues from their product since credit and debit cards are not as widely adopted for online payment as in other markets.
All this leaves us at risk of being mobile “have nots” with powerful phones being bought but nothing local to run on them. Changing this requires a concerted push from operators to encourage the creation of applications, the lowering or subsidising the handset costs, and the opening of mobile billing systems.