International IT corporations and software developers see huge potential for growth in Arabic-language mobile applications.
Speaking during a series of workshops held ahead of the ArabNet Digital Summit 2012 , which opens Thursday in Beirut, IT insiders noted that smartphone sales are gradually dwarfing those of personal computers. “Mobile devices will outnumber PCs (personal computers) next year,” William Kanaan, Head of MENA New Business Development at Google said at one of the workshops.
Sebastien Marteau, Vice President of Mobiles at Integral, echoed Kanaan’s views, saying the MENA region will continue to witness growth in advanced mobile usage after achieving high mobile penetration rates. But Marteau noted that the number of Arab-designed apps for smartphones is only 1,000, a very low compared to other countries.
“The Saudi market, for instance, is one of the largest markets in the region, and strongly prefers apps with Arabic interface,” said Jawad Abassi, the General Manager at Arab Advisors Group, calling on developers to step in to fill the huge gap. “The challenges we have ahead are that of creating local content, while ensuring telecoms make money to create sustainable industry,” Marteau said.
Strategy and Marketing Manager at Ericsson Lisa Nyman said that 75 percent of the time spent on smartphones is dedicated to Web surfing, arguing that smartphones are becoming the preferred way to access the Internet. She estimated the global average amount spent on advertisements for mobile phones to be more than $600 billion, calling on mobile developers in the region to benefit from the economic opportunities that these gadgets have.
The Developer Days of the summit started off with the “Mobile Hour,” which gave an inside look at recent developments in the mobile industry. Ahmad Adel, Developer and Platform Evangelism Sales and Operations Director at Microsoft, said “the average number of text messages sent in 1998 per person was four. Today, 6.1 trillion text messages are sent worldwide.”
Amina Belghiti and Stephane Crozatier from social media giant Facebook, highlighted some key stats and figures regarding social media. “It took Facebook eight years to get to 850 million users and almost four years to get to 425 million mobile users,” they said. “The major problem facing mobile is fragmentation. Facebook’s approach is to concentrate on relative platforms: iOS and Android,” they added.