Etisalat is to dip in toe in the apps markets launching its own online store.
Emirates to get online apps store
Etisalat is set to make its debut in the mobile applications market with its own online store.
Those who own Android or Nokia's Symbian handsets will be able to purchase apps such as Angry Birds or access Facebook using their Etisalat accounts in a few weeks.
The news comes as the UAE telecommunications company increasingly seeks to diversify its business away from its voice service offerings.
"It's not just about selling applications," said Maha Muraish, the director of online channel and portal management at Etisalat. "It is more about getting this developer community to come on board and start to create applications that make sense to the community over here."
The sales of voice services have fallen in the UAE over the past six years. Mobile and landline services comprised 80 per cent of the UAE's telecoms companies' revenues in 2005.
Last year, that figure had fallen to 70 per cent, according to Al Ramz Securities .
But at the same time, demand for data services on mobile phones, such as the iPhone and BlackBerry devices, has surged as the number of smartphone data subscribers last year doubled to 38,721 on a year earlier. Etisalat wants to take advantage of this trend by trying to encourage people to download apps on its online store.
The market is to be open to international and local developers, looking to create apps that are suited to the UAE.
Every app has to be approved by Etisalat and the company plans to negotiate the percentage of sales it will take with each app developer.
Some local app developers are worried online store might become dominated by international players.
Alexander Rauser, the chief executive of the local app development company Prototype Interactive, said there were not many app developers in the country.
Another potential hurdle is that the market only centres on the UAE - unlike Apple's App Store, which gives developers access to a market of many more millions of people.
"It needs to be a good opportunity for [developers] to actually make money out of it, so this means that the total number of downloads and the payout must be attractive for them to start developing applications for this specific store," said Mr Rauser.