Vodafone is running a Europe-wide €1-million competition to find the best mobile apps. The standard of Irish entries so far is very high, says Vodafone Ireland’s head of internet Chris Handley.
Last week, Apple unveiled the iPad and revealed that so far 3 billion mobile apps have been downloaded. Where does Vodafone see this market going?
The landscape is changing beyond recognition. We see music eventually being bundled inside apps and included as a service subscription. We don’t see music sales continuing to command the same revenues they used to, but having an app or service could be a minimum entry to the game.
Mobile devices are changing beyond recognition and 2010 will definitely be the year of the smart phone. How do you see the market playing out in Ireland?
There is quite a high demand for intelligent devices. Phones such as the iPhone and Android are more powerful, they come with bigger processors and as the computing power goes up it enables operators to drive more capabilities to consumers.
People aren’t interested in just talking; they want to be part of digital communities.
Vodafone created the 360 Store for widgets that will compete with Nokia’s Ovi, Google’s Android store and iTunes to name a few. Is the market in danger of becoming crowded?
At first there will be a shake-out and then there will be clarity. We partnered with major operators such as Verizon, SoftBank and China Mobile to create a critical mass and de facto standards.
There are other platforms such as Apple’s iTunes, while RIM has a BlackBerry store and Nokia has Ovi. The line between software and apps will become more blurred.
We see consolidation coming and there will be standards across the industry and devices that will drive further economies of scale and penetration of smart phones.
How do you see the relationship between a mobile operator and the customer changing?
Some 70pc of the population of Ireland is using prepay. It’s not too far a step to imagine that some day soon the mobile operator will be able to provide credit facilities or the ability for people to transfer funds to their friends.
Location-based services are another huge area of opportunity. Combine high-speed networks with GPS on every device and you have a powerful service. Before people know it, they’ll wake up one day to banking apps and point-of-presence purchasing via their phone.
We are in the golden age of mobile. The next five years will be crucial. In the beginning, mobile operators only had each other to compete with, but now we’re competing with software manufacturers such as Microsoft, internet players such as Google and device manufacturers such as Apple.
You launched the global Vodafone App Star competition in October. How would you describe the standard of Irish entries?
We can say that generically apps have come from the most unsuspecting places, whether it’s a widget that tells you what the school menu is going to be or one that tells you how long your next bus will take to arrive.
The standard here is higher on a per-capita basis.
The beautiful thing about creating an app is it doesn’t take a huge amount of resources and can be built in weeks. An individual can compete on the same scale as a software company.
For further information on the Vodafone App Star competition, log on to www.siliconrepublic.com/special-events/vodafone-apps.
By John Kennedy
Photo: Vodafone Ireland’s head of internet Chris Handley