x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Google to feed Middle East's hunger for technology with greater support

Google is set to tap what it calls the "hunger for technology" in the Middle East by providing greater support to app developers and introducing carrier billing in the region.

There are currently 500 million users of Google's Android operating system across the world, with 1.3 million new additions every day. Mary Altaffer / AP Photo
There are currently 500 million users of Google's Android operating system across the world, with 1.3 million new additions every day. Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

Google is set to tap what it calls the "hunger for technology" in the Middle East by providing greater support to app developers and introducing carrier billing in the region.

There are currently 500 million users of Google's Android operating system across the world, with 1.3 million new additions every day.

"The Middle East is a ridiculously huge market in terms of adoption of technology. This hunger for technology won't slow down and for Android what's very important is to support that hunger by making sure the local market app developers can develop, sell and monetise their apps," said Richard Turner, the director of Android Europe Middle East & Africa Partnership.

Research from Gartner shows that sales of Android smartphones grew 88 per cent last year, capturing 31 per cent of all mobile-phone shipments in the region.

Mr Turner said that the growth of Android enabled devices had been "colossal".

"One reason [for this growth] is Google doesn't charge for the Android operating system and the core Google mobile services are provided free of charge so manufacturers can produce very powerful devices at a cost effective point," said Mr Turner. International Data Corporation figures suggest more than 70 per cent of global smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of last year ran on Android, up from 52 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Local sales of Android smartphones have been pushed largely by the success of the Samsung SIII smartphone, which accounted for 42 per cent of global Android smartphone sales.

"The growth of Android in this part of the world has been largely driven by Samsung's Galaxy family of smartphones. There has been very little Google has done to grow the ecosystem in this part of the world and they left most of the heavy lifting to their brand partners like Samsung, HTV, Sony LG and Motorola," said Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's Electronics. "I don't think most consumers bought Android for Android, they bought it for what they saw in the hardware they were getting from Samsung. It would be nice to see Google more involved in marketing the platform."

Google is working with both Etisalat and STC to bring carrier billing to customers, enabling them to buy applications from the Google Play app store directly through the mobile phone bills as opposed to credit cards and online payment methods.

"This is something we'd like to see, but there are two or three challenges in that for our billing system," said Mr Turner. The main challenge in this regard is providing local market currency support.

"There are so many currencies to deal with in the Middle East, so we have to prioritise. We are doing what we can and hope to see carrier billing in 2013," said Mr Turner.

Google has enjoyed a greater audience across the Middle East especially over the past couple of years. During the Egyptian revolution of 2011, 100,000 videos were uploaded onto Youtube from within the country, informing the world of what was going on.

YouTube has 800 million users worldwide and every minute, 72 hours of content is uploaded onto the website. Saudi Arabians watch more YouTube videos than any other nation.

 

thamid@thenational.ae