Last week, Rovio Entertainment launched its latest game, Bad Piggies, in an attempt to shift consumers away from its Angry Birds.
The Finland-based company made over €75 million in revenues last year, but has had to expand into merchandise – anything from books to t-shirts – as it looks to grow its business.
This highlights the crux of the app problem for operators – they can be incredibly popular but are also ephemeral in nature, and deciding on the best way to manage them is an ongoing challenge.
At the appsworld event in London on Tuesday, a group of operators got together to try and eke out some best practice.
There are three main issues to consider: providing developers with what they need, giving consumers what they want, and working out how operators can avoid being just a delivery channel and derive some revenue.
For developers, the discussion centered around the role of APIs.
Jose Valles, director of enabling platforms and developer ecosystems at Telefonica, was keen to highlight the Firefox OS it is developing with Mozilla.
The year-old project aims to eliminate platform-specific APIs that Valles believes hinder developers who are not keen on having to provide multiple versions of their apps.
While Valles said Firefox OS is “the only way we will succeed”, other operators were less sure.
Telenor’s manager of device content, Andreas Fjeld, said he had “no belief” in it.
Martin Wrigley, director of developer services at Orange Partner, was equally sceptical.
He revealed that they have 20 APIs currently and are actively looking for more.
“We are enablers in this ecosystem and I see no need for a single, global API,” he said.
But Valles was not to be dissuaded: “Telco APIs are too fragmented and developers don’t care for them.”
Essentially, there seems to be a split between operators such as Orange and Telenor, who are happy to work on a national or regional basis, and Telefonica, which is more focused on improving the wider ecosystem and enabling all developers, whatever their size.
If there was little agreement on APIs, there was more consensus on what was required around end users.
“We need to focus on the customer experience,” said Wrigley. “The choice is not good and there are too many apps.”
Consequently, Orange is focused on fewer, better quality and better targeted apps, he said.
Fjeld said that Telenor is pursuing a strategy of signing agreements with specific media houses who produce the apps their customers want.
TeliaSonera is doing something similar and their head of application unit, Patrik Holjo, highlighted his company’s partnership with Spotify.
“Research shows that consumers use 32 apps every two months on average and they are largely focused on social networking, IM and gaming.”
There was also agreement that direct operator billing is key to operators making money.
Valles said operator billing was “the way” for operators to make money, while Fjeld said it was very important.
Wrigley said it made a huge difference and that Orange are actively forming partnerships to make it a reality.
Thankfully, there was no talk of any operator developing their own app businesses.
Concluded Holjo: “Apps provide differentiation, upsell/revenue generating opportunities and, through the right partnerships, help to strengthen the telco brand.”