Local app developers bullish on outlook

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Proud to be Malaysian… Alphapod has come up with an app called Selfie Cam for iOS whose function is obvious. It was a featured app in iTunes US in March and has been mentioned favourably on popular tech sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, Slashgear, Cult Of Mac and The Next Web!Proud to be Malaysian… Alphapod has come up with an app called Selfie Cam for iOS whose function is obvious. It was a featured app in iTunes US in March and has been mentioned favourably on popular tech sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, Slashgear, Cult Of Mac and The Next Web!Proud to be Malaysian… Alphapod has come up with an app called Selfie Cam for iOS whose function is obvious. It was a featured app in iTunes US in March and has been mentioned favourably on popular tech sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, Slashgear, Cult Of Mac and The Next Web!

oon yeohoon yeohBy Oon Yeoh

There was a time when business owners actually debated whether or not to have a website. Similarly, this question was asked about social media pages. Today, any company worth its salt would have at least a very basic website and a Facebook and/or Twitter page.

But what about apps? Will every company one day feel it needs to have its own app in order to meet its customers’ expectations? I asked a couple of app developers – those who are actually in the business of building apps for companies – what they thought of this and got surprisingly different answers.

Chris Lim (centre in pic with fellow co-founders) of Trinerva was very bullish on the outlook. “Give it another two years, and I think you will find that apps will be viewed as a necessity rather than something nice to have,” says Chris, adding that apps are good both for serving customers as well as for internal company uses. Whether for consumer or enterprise apps, he thinks almost all companies will eventually invest in apps.

Clayton Narcis, co-founder of Alphapod, was far less optimistic because he sees apps as having more dedicated functions than corporate websites and social media pages, which he deems to be akin to Yellow Pages on the “Internet Milky Way”. In other words, websites have a very broad purpose of giving you information about companies. Mobile apps, in contrast, need to serve more specific purposes than just providing information. “Every app you have in your phone does something specific to make your life easier or better in some way,” he says. “It only makes sense to have an app if there is some specific functionality you wish to offer your customers.”

Nevertheless, both agree that the app market – though now filled with many developers – is still growing strong.

“We started four years ago, at a time when the market was not quite ready for mobile apps, so we had to spend a lot of time convincing clients of the value of having apps. Today, although there are more developers around, demand (for app development) still outstrips supply,” Chris says.

Clayton, who started his company five years ago, witnessed the market for apps grow steadily over the years, says the demand for app development is not just increasing in Malaysia but across the region. In fact, he thinks that opportunities abound abroad and his company does quite a lot of business overseas. “Local demand is rising but it is lagging behind our neighbours.”

Most app developers in Malaysia, and around the world, began with developing iOS apps for iPhones and iPads. But with the Android platform growing faster than iOS, app developers cannot afford to ignore it. (As for Windows Phone apps, the fact that there still isn’t a single app for trading stocks on Bursa Malaysia is very telling.)

“Android is penetrating the market much faster than any other operating system,” says Chris, whose company makes apps for iOS, Android and Windows. “Many companies will deploy solutions in Android because so many different types of devices have adopted that platform. I personally think iOS apps offer a more standardized user experience but they only run on Apple devices. More people have Android devices, so you can’t run away from Android development. You have to do it.”

Clayton’s company does Android development too but he says it is more challenging to do so because of fragmentation – there are so many devices and variations of the operating system, which is considered open source, unlike iOS.

“Developing on Android means you’ll need to have additional man power for either testing or adapting on different variations of the operating system for different devices,” says Clayton (far right in pic with fellow co-founders). “From inception to a market ready app, the development time is normally higher on Android compared to iOS.”

The goal of many app developers, whose core business is creating apps for corporate clients, is to produce their own consumer apps that are targetted at end users. It’s not easy to justify spending time and effort building such apps, as the returns aren’t guaranteed compared to building an app to order for clients. However, both Trinerva and Alphapod have tested the waters with consumer apps of their own.

Trinerva has an app called iPrinz (pic) which lets users send postcards using their own photos. The iOS version can be downloaded here and the Android version here.

Alphapod has come up with an app called Selfie Cam for iOS whose function is obvious. It was a featured app in iTunes US in March and has been favourably mentioned in popular tech sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, Slashgear, Cult Of Mac and The Next Web!

Both Chris and Clayton say they intend to develop more consumer apps of their own. Perhaps this is in anticipation of a future when the app development scene becomes too crowded and demand from clients start dwindling. Being your own consumer app developer is an insurance policy against that.

“Without a doubt more and more programmers will leave their companies to start up their own companies and this will drive prices down,” says Chris.

“I don’t think the marketplace (for app development) is overcrowded at the moment but it will be eventually as the talent pool (for programmers) increases,” says Clayton. “It will definitely drive prices down. It’s a race to zero and unfortunately for the industry, it will happen sooner rather than most expect.”

 

Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.

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