BlackBerry to launch app store in UAE in June
RIM is developing local applications and supporting local developers
Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian smart phone manufacturer, is set to launch its BlackBerry App World store in the UAE in June this year. RIM released the beta version of its app store last month in the country.
Mike Al-Mefleh, director of product management for the Middle East, RIM, said: "We are undergoing due diligence in testing and qualifying the BlackBerry App World store with different carriers in the country. We continue to complete tasks needed to bring it live soon."
Once operational, the BlackBerry App World store will enable BlackBerry users in the country to download tailor-made applications directly on to their phones.
Mefleh told CommsMEA that the BlackBerry App World store is currently up and running in the Middle East markets of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan. "In the UAE, we are still working through to ensure that we complete all the testing needed with the carriers, and we should be up and running with our store within a month or two," he said.
"We have been in dialogue with customers and carriers in the country for some time now, and we see a lot of interest for our app store in the consumer market here. As we speak, we continue to develop applications that are relevant for this market, and add them up on this store," said Mefleh. He also said that RIM has been in discussions with customers "to bring them relevant local content in the local language".
"We have been working with developers here to develop that," he added.
Other organisations involved in the region's mobile apps industry are upbeat about the development. David Ashford of AppsArabia, a newly established investment fund to promote mobile app development in the MENA region, said: "Now that the BlackBerry app store is live in four MENA countries, with others to follow, we are actively looking for commercially viable BlackBerry app investment opportunities. We are working on one project at the moment which is expected to be launched in June... and it will be launched on BlackBerry App World store."
Mefleh said: "As we are speaking, we are developing some gaming and entertainment applications, and also some relevant tooling applications, for example, DEWA, banking and Salik. We are looking into each market such as UAE and Saudi Arabia, and seeing what relevant utility applications can be developed for customers that they rely on.
"As we have a global catalogue, we are also looking at local catalogues to see what's relevant to this market, and we are engaging fully with developers to bring in these applications here."
Mefleh pointed out that less than 5% of apps used in the region are developed locally. However, he said that the local application developer community is growing. He said that as consumer demand for more applications rises, developers will start to see the need to bring in local applications with local content.
Mefleh said that he sees a huge opportunity for telcos as they can push these apps to their subscriber community. "This is part of the dialogue that we are having with carriers in the region. This is a great benefit to carriers who can integrate the revenue in terms of carrier domain integration by having specific apps that are relevant to their customers, targeting a specific country," he added.
BlackBerry has an alliance program with partners such ASGATech, and MobiDev that supports developers to grow their applications in the region. Sanyu Kiruluta, team lead for developer relations, EMEA, RIM, said: "We have a localised area in the App World, which allows local developers to feature their applications. As we bring the BlackBerry App World to these markets here, developers can also post their new apps, if approved by BlackBerry, to App World where global exposure can greatly increase the profile of the application. We provide data to the alliance partners before we release it to the community so that we can help the developers build their apps quickly."
Ashford said that he sees great potential for BlackBerry apps in the UAE, and especially in the enterprise space. He said that though many people in this part of the world have smart phones, they do not necessarily have credit cards. "...the real benefit will come when operator billing is live, and RIM has announced that they'll be doing this soon," he added.
With the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet expected to hit the Middle East market in June, Mefleh said: "We plan to come up with different versions of PlayBook that support 3G and 4G or LTE. We are working with carriers in this region to see where they stand with 4G and LTE developments. By bringing these tablets to this region, we want to take advantage of the high performance networks."