Let's Fall in Love With Apps
Birds (Blue Jays) do it. Banks do it. Even folks who swim with tanks do it. Just about every form of modern human endeavour from the utterly trivial to matters of life and death, seems to have its own mobile application. And the field of digital application development is burgeoning like nothing we've seen since - you know - dot.com.
The smart-phone revolution and the evolving importance of the wireless device as the focus for personal computing are propelling this phenomenon. Other characteristics like the low cost of entry and the classic "long-tail" economics of the marketplace have made this one of the hottest spots in ICT. It's tough to keep track, but some estimates put the current census of commercially available apps at 200,000.
It all has an exhilarating frontier feel about it and, like the Old West, lots of interesting folklore... like the story about the nine-year old computing prodigy from Singapore who designed the iPhone Doodle Kids app for his sister or, closer to home, the one about Viigo, a group of Toronto developers who impressed the folks at RIM so much they bought the company.
Fortunately, the ITAC community is rich with companies who are already veterans in this bright new area and we're pleased to introduce a few of them to you in this issue of ITAC Online.Tell us your thoughts on this story
Planet of the apps
The launch of the BlackBerry in 1999 introduced the world to the first smart-phone optimized for e-mail and helped to launch the mobile application phenomenon to device-driven personal computing. RIM’s leadership in the smart-phone market makes it an important player in this space today.
Tyler Lessard is Vice-President of BlackBerry Global Alliances and Developer Relations at RIM, and he was the featured speaker at this month’s ITAC Digital Commerce Forum, “Doing Business with RIM.” He spoke with us about what exactly he does, what it takes to do business with RIM, and how he sees the mobile apps market – now, and in the future.
“Our team is responsible for building and supporting the global community of third party vendors who are offering wireless applications and value-added services for BlackBerry targeting both consumer and enterprise customers,” Tyler said. “We manage the BlackBerry Developer Program, which provides technical resources and support tools for the broad developer community, as well as the BlackBerry Alliances Program which is designed to help commercial organizations be successful in building and selling solutions on BlackBerry through dedicated technical, business and marketing support. With over 250,000 registered developers and over 2,000 members of the BlackBerry Alliance Program, there is a tremendous amount of activity and excitement building in the ecosystem!”
Excitement indeed – some analysts estimate that the mobile apps market will represent a $9-billion industry by 2011. And still, there remains a sense that anyone can enter it. However, Tyler says it takes more than just a great idea to break into the scene.
“It is true that the barriers are lower than ever and we see an increasing number of hobbyists, commercial developers and corporate developers getting on board with mobile applications,” he said. “And of course, the demand for apps is increasing all the time as more and more people are moving to smart-phones like BlackBerry and awareness is building thanks to direct-to-consumer storefronts like BlackBerry App World. In fact, we recently announced that we now have over 20 million customers that have used BlackBerry App World and we are now seeing nearing one million app downloads per day.
“However, developers can’t just expect to put their applications out there and have immediate success. It takes thoughtful engineering to design an application in a way that truly solves a problem for the user, or brings them incremental value over what they are already using today. It often takes several iterations to learn what experiences resonate with the users and how to optimize the use of the wireless network to deliver an experience that is both compelling to the user and able to scale with market demand.
“We are trying to help our developer community understand how to leverage the BlackBerry platform to deliver experiences that are truly compelling to customers, so that they can rise up and grab the attention of the customers out there. We call this the idea of “Super Apps” and we now have a dedicated web site for the topic (www.blackberry.com/developers/superapps) and have launched the Super Apps Developer Challenge to as a way of educating the community at large and rewarding those developers that are delivering the best experiences in the market.”
With the thousands upon thousands of mobile apps that exist, one would assume that an ideal way to break into the market would be through a partnership with a major player like RIM. Establishing these types of partnerships is part of Tyler’s job. The key to a good one, he says, is a shared vision.
“First and foremost, we look for a commitment to excellence and a desire to work together to deliver the best possible solutions to our customers. I get really excited about a developer, a systems integrator, or a solution provider when we start talking about how we can work together to exceed customer expectations, to deliver an application or set of services that really make a difference to our customers and are unique in the industry,” he said. “We’re always looking for innovative ways to bring more value to our customers and we are seeing an incredible number of partners in the industry who share that vision.”
As a leader in this vector of the ICT industry, Tyler says RIM is constantly seeking out ways to innovate, and make the mobile apps market a better place for both developers and consumers to inhabit.
“By continuing to invest in both the enterprise and consumer markets, we are committed to opening up as many doors as possible for our developer community, and to helping the industry push forward through innovative, high-value applications on our platform. We are also investing significantly in our new Services Platform for developers that will bring new online Payments, Advertising, Location and Push APIs to our developer community,” Tyler said. “These new services will bring great new opportunities to monetize applications as well as enhance the “Super App” capabilities of our platform to enable even richer always-on, highly contextualized app experiences. And of course, we are continuing to invest in BlackBerry App World as a global distribution platform for applications, and we’ll be coming out with great new features such as carrier billing integration.”
How else can a neophyte stand out in a market overflowing with competitors? Tyler says know your customers’ needs.
“It’s been amazing to see how “personal” mobile applications have become, and I think that is the key to where they are going to go over the next few years. Not just consumer apps, but business-focused applications as well,” Tyler said. “It’s all about engaging the end user in a very personal way, anticipating their behavior, understanding what role they are playing and what their interests are, and proactively notifying them when something has happened that is most relevant to them as individuals. Apps are truly transforming the way that people work and play, and I couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come in the years ahead.”Tell us your thoughts on this story
Flirting over apps
Gone are the days when courting took place solely in person, through face-to-face contact. With the advent of online dating in the mid-1990s, many have grown accustomed to finding romance through scrolling, clicking, and typing. Now, a fling can be born right in your palm – if you own a smart-phone, that is, and have downloaded the proper app(s).
Andrew Osmak is Senior Vice-President of Business Development and New Ventures at Lavalife Corporation, and Shane O’Neil is the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Together, over the past six years, they have developed a mobile application for Lavalife, bringing their customers the ability to flirt through their smart-phone.
It has been Andrew’s responsibility to define what exactly a mobile experience should be for a Lavalife customer, while Shane is in charge of figuring out how, technically, to make that happen.
“Our first approach to mobile business was to take a very simple version of what we thought could be Lavalife Mobile. So we started with a little SMS dating service that cost $0.50 per message, then we expanded to a mobile web version of that service for $5 per month and went knocking on carrier doors asking for billing arrangements and distribution agreements,” Andrew explained. “We then expanded into a whole bunch of chatting or flirting services or games.
“Our version 1 approach of exploiting mobile was actually to not interfere with the existing web business or voice business; instead, we went ahead and started a whole service from scratch. It had Lavalife DNA, and the products felt like Lavalife products, but they didn’t necessarily interact with the same folks that were on Lavalife.com or that were on the voice service or database. That business grew quick to a pretty significant size – at one point about the same size as our web business.”
But things have changed, Andrew said, to the point where Lavalife is now toying with the full integration of their web, voice, and mobile services, instead of keeping them all separate.
“We have debated integrating our databases for probably about 10 years,” Andrew said. “In my mind, eventually we would get to integration, yet the company needed to evolve and the market needed to evolve to the point where we knew our customers were asking for mobile services and therefore we should deliver them.
“Interestingly enough, as we look at the users we’ve had across the different services we offer, you don’t quite see as much overlap as you might guess. I think people select their preferred access, and once they get used to it, they like it and they keep doing it. In the outside world, however, as cell phones all have keyboards and become smart-phones – as talking, typing, computing all can be done on one device – it becomes easier and easier for people to hop from one usage preference to another. We are riding the coattails of that hardware convergence, and we intend to offer a converged or cross-medium service, which you should be able to access any way you’d like.”
The emergence of app stores (there are currently 42 of them, at Andrew’s last count) has been one key factor in the growth of the mobile app market, and a motivator for Lavalife to immerse itself in it, Andrew said. But as Shane will tell you, a successful entrance to the market is a multi-faceted endeavour; one which requires more time and money than you might think.
“The challenges are around the cost of mobile development if you want to be everywhere,” Shane said. “You have to build, and have the different talents that can deliver an iPhone app, versus Android, and other platforms like BlackBerry which are typically Java – and then there is a percentage at the end which you have to customize. It can be very expensive if you don’t have a good strategy on how you’re going to go tackle the market.
“It’s no different than building a website, or an online property, and you need to attract people to it. You need to be smart. You need to get to the market fast. You need to either spend a lot of money on marketing, or make sure that you’re marketing is built into the product so that it has that viral aspect that’s going to allow you to take off the way companies like foursquare are doing right now,” he explained. “There is a fallacy that people think they can go build an app because it’s easy, and that the hardest part is the idea. But really, you have about seven days to aggressively market yourself before you just fall into the bowels of an app store – and that’s if you’re getting uptake.”
Shane said app stores are currently affecting smart-phones similarly to how the internet affected PCs over a decade ago.
“I align the notion of app stores with what a PC was before the internet really came out. The days of you installing software on your computer are going away. Software is just always on. And now we have this notion of an app store where you have to go in, build an app, then put it on and download it, and deal with all these constant updates. When you see where the trend in technology is going, these smart-phones are going to have much better capabilities, not just a normal web application experience. So it’ll almost go back to what we’re seeing with the evolution of software as a service, where you don’t necessarily have to install something on your device, specifically talking about where we’re going with things like HTML5.”
As for keeping your costs down, Andrew said a developer should be ready to put in the long hours, and potentially, collaborate.
“Do your homework – you need a crisp idea of what you’re trying to develop. And don’t necessarily expect to do it all on your own. There’s a growing number of app development shops around Toronto, Canada, the US, and the world, so you might be able to get someone to build it for you for less than you could for yourself.”
After all, in this case, partnerships are what it’s all about…Tell us your thoughts on this story
Touchdown on the touch-screen
In sports, there are fans, and then there are fans of the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, and Saskatchewan Roughriders. These are the fans who transcend location, follow their teams year round, and have made team-wear into everyday fashion.
Bringing the team experience to these fans’ smart phones makes as much sense as punting on third-and-long.
Thanks to the Rider App – a free BlackBerry and iPhone application developed jointly by SaskTel’s IDnoodle division, zu, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders – fans of the Green and White can follow the team wherever they are.
Ryan Lejbak, the CEO and co-founder of Saskatoon-based zu, says the application began as a simple concept.
“Rider fans are passionate about every aspect of their team, and when they’re at the game they’re really involved, but there was no way for them to get up-to-date statistics in the stands. That’s how it started.”
zu – a 15 year-old company that specializes in interactive communications, websites, and smart phone applications like the popular TimmyMe – partnered with IDnoodle to take the idea to the Riders. The companies collectively worked on the initial features for the Rider app, while zu provided the graphic design and IDnoodle developed the back-end, BlackBerry and iPhone applications.
“The football club was a bit skeptical at first that its fans would use a smart phone app,” Ryan said, “but mobile use is growing exponentially and Saskatchewan is leading the way in Canada.”
He said that the application was such an immediate hit that fans were suggesting features that weren’t in the original plan and that some members of Rider Nation were buying the BlackBerry device just to get the app.
In addition to the live statistics that were at the heart of the idea, the Rider App provides an official Twitter feed, a full season schedule—with a one-click link to purchase tickets for home games—roster and player information, Canadian Football League results and standings, game scores, news articles and blogs.
Introduced for BlackBerry early last fall and for iPhone in mid-season, the Rider App stands poised to be a popular special teams star during the coming year.Tell us your thoughts on this story
May 25 - May 27, 2010
May 27, 2010
For a full event listing, and to register for ITAC events, go to: itac.ca/events
Other News and Events
ITAC invites you to our Annual General Meeting/Chairs’ Dinner
Robert Watson, President and CEO, SaskTel, and ITAC’s incoming Chair, cordially invites you to attend the ITAC Annual Chairs’ Dinner:
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
6:00p.m. – Cocktail Reception; 7:00p.m. – Dinner & Awards Presentation
The Westin Bristol Place, Toronto Airport, 950 Dixon Road, Toronto
The evening will be an opportunity to celebrate and honour the accomplishments of:
Mr. Tom Turchet, ITAC’s Chair from 2009-2010;
ITAC’s IT Hero Award winners; and
ITAC’s member community and volunteers.
Attendees will also be given the chance to hear the evening’s feature speaker, President of IBM Canada, Bruce Ross.
Corporate table of 8 - $1595 members ($1795 non-members)
Individual tickets - $225 members ($275 non-members)
*GST will be applied to prices above
For more information or to RSVP, please contact Cindy Scott, First Avenue Events, at email@example.com, or 613-233-7600.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Call for Nominations: ITAC Volunteer of the Year Award
ITAC is calling for nominations for the 2010 ITAC Volunteer of the Year. ITAC is a community of companies and business people and, like any community, it depends on the contributions and leadership of its members to grow and achieve its objectives. We celebrate this fact at our annual Chairs’ Dinner (this year taking place June 23 in Toronto). To further underscore the importance of the contributions ITAC volunteers make, we present annually the “ITAC Volunteer of the Year Award.” This award will be made to one individual whose contributions have significantly advanced the progress of ITAC’s work over the past 12 months.
The process of identifying this person is simple. We are calling for nominations from the entire membership community. If you have encountered a volunteer whose commitment and energy has helped us achieve a key objective, either through work on an ITAC committee or in some other capacity, simply identify that person to us with a brief explanation of why you think that person’s contribution is exemplary and what results he or she achieved. Please do not nominate members of ITAC’s Board of Directors. A small committee of the Board will review the nominees and make a selection. The presentation will take place at the Chairs’ Dinner. Please make your nominations in confidence. (We will not publish a list of nominees or nominators.) Send them to Janet Tite at firstname.lastname@example.org, no later than June 14, 2009.
Submit your nominations now!
Watch Dr. Sophie Vandebroek speak at inaugural ITAC/CWC speakers series
It was an inspirational beginning to the ITAC/CWC speakers series, as Dr. Sophie Vandebroek, CTO and President of Xerox Innovation Corporation, chatted with Stephanie MacKendrick, President of Canadian Women in Communications, on the nature of her job, her background, and the challenges of managing a global team of innovators while raising a family.
Watch video highlights of the discussion here: http://www.itac.ca/index.php?/site/media_details/1587/
ITAC becomes official WITSA Global Business Centre
ITAC's Mississauga office has become an official World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) Global Business Centre. This means all ITAC members have access to other WITSA GBC's – equipped with all standard office supplies and amenities – around the world.
Leverage on the WITSA Business Centres in these listed economies to extend your network and forge business alliances with ICT players worldwide. Fully equipped with all the basic office amenities, the WITSA Business Centres are your soft landing zones to search for, hold meetings, and conduct business with potential trading partners. Find a WITSA Business Centre in: Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Chinese Taipei, Egypt, Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Republic of Macedonia, South Africa, Spain, or the United States.
Aimed at promoting and facilitating greater cross border trade and investment, these business centers are available for use by WITSA members, global partners, and their affiliates at minimal or no cost.
Office facilities include: meeting rooms; high speed internet access; computer and office equipment; telecommunications; trade referrals; secretarial staff support and assistance (optional).
For more information on how to book a GBC, and the terms and conditions of booking, visit: http://globaltrade.witsa.org/business_center/bcenter.html.
ITAC has joined LinkedIn
ITAC now has its own LinkedIn group, and we are inviting all members to join! If you have a LinkedIn account, simply search “ITAC Online” in the groups field, and gain access to ICT-related news clips, discussions, and job postings.
We look forward to linking up!
SAP and Richard Ivey School of Business Present the Sustainability in Business Awards
SAP Canada Inc., in partnership with the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, has created the Sustainability in Business Awards. The awards are designed to recognize sustainability initiatives undertaken by Canadian organizations. The Richard Ivey School of Business, which will independently adjudicate the award submissions, will announce the inaugural winner on June 8, 2010, at SAP's Sustainability in Business Summit in Toronto.
The SAP Sustainability in Business Summit will be held at the Allstream Centre – Canada's Greenest Conference Centre – and will feature expert speakers and executive planning sessions based on sustainability.
For more information, please visit: www.sap.com/canada/SIB
Congratulations to Sandvine on plan to invest $170-million over five years and create 75 new jobs in Waterloo
Waterloo-based Sandvine is an award-winning provider of Internet equipment and software. With the help of a grant of up to $25.5-million from the Ontario government, announced on May 10, they will be developing new products which will improve internet subscribers’ experience and meet growing demand for high-bandwidth, quality-sensitive applications like streaming video.
Sandvine will invest a total of nearly $170-million over five years, creating up to 75 new positions and retaining 195 high-value jobs. They have customers in more than 80 countries, serve over 300-million fixed and mobile subscribers, and have been identified as the leader in their market.
Register now for the New York Venture Summit – Thursday, June 17
The New York Venture Summit, presented by youngStartup Ventures, is the premier industry gathering where cutting-edge startups meet top venture capitalists, angel investors, Corporate VCs, and investment bankers.
Whether you are an investor seeking new deals, or an emerging company seeking capital and exposure, the New York Venture Summit is one event you won’t want to miss.
Now in its 10th year, this full day deal-fest will feature:
More than 30 influential speakers
5 venture capital panel discussions
Presentations by 50 of the hottest emerging companies seeking funding
High-level networking opportunities
Six hundred leading venture capitalists, corporate VCs, angel investors, investment bankers, tech transfer executives, incubator managers, and CEOs of emerging companies attend the summit each year.
To register, click here: https://s74201.gridserver.com/registration/?ysveid=146
For more information, please visit: http://www.youngstartup.com/newyork2010/overview.php