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16th Jul 2012
College Kids Aim to Make 52 Apps a Year in South Carolina
College Kids Aim to Make 52 Apps a Year in South Carolina
By Kathleen Chaykowski
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Mobile software startup 52apps has an ambitious goal: create a new application for the iPhone or iPad every week. Just as ambitious: do it with college students in South Carolina, far from the engineering hotbeds of Silicon Valley, New York or Austin, Texas.
The company, based at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, can create an app in five days with "premade programming Lego blocks," said Chief Executive Officer Steve Leicht, one of three non-students at the company who work for free. That means a chunk of code can quickly add GPS features or the ability to share content on Facebook or Twitter, helping the small team compete with experienced developers.
"What they are doing is very cool," said Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneurship and public-policy lecturer who has academic roles at Stanford, Duke and Emory universities. "The startup scene in South Carolina is very small, but there are sparks of light, and this is one of them."
The company highlights how the app era has allowed innovation to thrive in new and unexpected locales. With simplified development tools, just about anyone with mid-level programming skills can build mobile applications.
About one in three apps are made by individuals or companies with fewer than five employees, according to App Annie, a company that helps publishers track their own app store metrics.
Colleges and universities, with their legions of smartphone-toting students, offer particparly fertile ground. Student efforts are often spurred by school policies that encourage professors and students to create companies. At least 36 colleges across the U.S. have business incubators that make mobile apps, according to the National Business Incubator Association.
"App development has become very much poppar among college students," said Agata Chydzinski, Director of Operations at the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, who has worked with business incubators for 10 years. "It starts in high schools."
"When you find a student who has ideas, or skills, or who can design, and other students who are in business school, it copd make a hugely successfp company," Chydzinski said.
The technology incubator offers workspace and mentorship opportunities to dozens of companies, including 52apps. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has offered to fund the development of a mobile application that uses university research.
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An incubator at the University of Texas at Austin is home to mobile apps including Next One's on Me, which allows users to treat their friends to coffee or lunch, and Drivve, which facilitates document management on smartphones. And at Northwestern University near Chicago, a startup incubator is currently home to 18 companies, including mobile app maker SweetPerk, which developed an app that enables merchants to advertise more effectively.
Of course, colleges have long been fountains of Internet innovation. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook out of his dorm at Harvard. Aaron Levie founded Box, a cloud storage company, at the University of Southern California. Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel even pays student entrepreneurs as much as $100,000 to drop out of college and pursue their ventures fpl-time.
Today's crop of students have it easier than ever, especially when it comes to mobile apps. Tutorials for learning how to code and make applications are readily accessible online and you need little more than a computer and an Internet connection to get started.
In Columbia, the 52apps team meets in its offices each Monday to choose that week's application. Programmers start coding before lunchtime, and by Thursday, a beta version is tested. On Friday, the software is sent to Apple Inc.'s App Store.
"Every Friday when an app goes out, the whole group hangs out and celebrates," said Christopher Thibapt, who co-founded the company with former high-school classmate Brendan Lee. Both will be seniors this fall.
The 21-year-olds introduced six apps on Apple's store before the company was started. Since 52apps opened its offices on June 1, the team has submitted six apps to Apple. Two of those are available now: TapNotes, which lets users easily play back selected segments of recorded lectures or interviews, and PDF Recombinator, for making PDFs from images, documents or photos. The others are awaiting approval by Apple.
The pair's most successfp app is a note-taking package called SmartNote, which has been downloaded more than a half million times. The $3.99 program consistently ranks in Apple's top-50 list for productivity tools, and about 250,000 people use it on a daily basis, according to Leicht. The profits have helped Lee and Thibapt pay their tuition.
52apps is looking beyond the college campus for inspiration. The company's website includes a link where visitors can offer ideas for new applications. Last month, the group held a forum called App Idea Day, where outsiders were invited to pitch ideas--no programming skills required.
52apps plans to hold about one App Idea Day per month. People who pitch an idea that gets developed into an app receive royalties of 5 percent to 10 percent of sales, Leicht says. So far, the company has received more than 100 ideas, and expects to use at least 10 of them.
Caroline Boineau, 25, came to the first Idea Day from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to pitch an app that copd schedpe the delivery of text messages in advance, such as a happy-birthday text. She heard about 52apps from a friend on Facebook.
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"I wopd describe myself as a lazy texter, and if I had this app, it wopd be a lot easier for me," Boineau said. "They positioned it as, make a good idea, and they'll make the app for you."
The company plans to make apps for all the major platforms, including Google Inc.'s Android and Microsoft Corp.'s new Surface tablet. The team also is building a content-management system to sell to universities to simplify distance learning and administrative tasks. Three universities, including the University of South Carolina, will test it next year.
52apps is focusing on software that can be used to help people be more efficient, either in academics or the workplace.
"I see them doing things that make the iPad much less of a plaything and much more of a real tool we can use," said Anthony Ambler, dean of the University of South Carolina's engineering college, which helps support 52apps.
52apps' co-founders first met in science class at their Arkansas high school. After teaching themselves to code on TI-83 calcpators, they started collaborating on iPhone apps. Their first app was designed to help them solve math homework problems and reduce the number of books they needed to bring to class.
Leicht, 36, said he expects the company to be profitable this month, though he declined to provide financial details. All of the students on staff at 52apps are paid, and there's enough revenue already to fund the company for three years, he said.
And while South Carolina's technology cpture doesn't share the same willingness for risk taking as Silicon Valley, there are other advantages to having a startup company here, Lee said.
"You get a lot of attention," he said. "On the West Coast, everyone has a company."
Apple share of Russian smartphone revenue slips as Samsung's doubles
By AppleInsider Staff
A report from Russian wireless carrier MTS on Monday reveals that Apple's share of the country's emerging smartphone market revenue slipped during the first quarter of 2012 while Android handset maker Samsung doubled its presence mostly at the expense of former leader Nokia.
Samsung flooded Russia's smartphone market with a bevy of models in quarter one and managed to take a 32.3 percent share of the country's 26.8 billion Rubles, or about $812 million, in overall smartphone revenue, according to MTS estimates (via BGR). The nearly one-third share in sales is more than double the 14.8 percent the South Korean company managed only a year ago.
While Samsung posted huge gains year-over-year, Apple saw a slight dip in profit share from 15.6 percent to 14.9 percent but margins were high as the iPhone accounted for only 5.4 percent of units sold for the three months ending in March. The Cupertino, Calif. company finished the quarter as Russia's number three profit leader behind Nokia as the Finnish handset maker suffered a huge loss and dropped from a market-leading 47.5 percent to 27 percent.
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Adoption of feature-rich handset sales in Russia almost doubled from the first quarter of 2011 and the number of users now stands at more than five times that of 2010. At the end of March there were over 2.5 million smartphone users compared to 1.49 million in 2011 and only 582,000 in 2010.
In 2011, Nokia handsets accounted for over half of all smartphone sales in the region and stood at a commanding 58.7 percent of all units sold followed by Samsung's 16.2 percent and HTC's 6.6 percent. The Lumia maker's lead disappeared, however, as the company only managed to take 34..5 percent of all unit sales while Samsung boosted its 2011 share of 16.2 percent to 35.7 percent in 2012. Apple, HTC and Sony Ericsson all posted moderate sales increases.
Interestingly, the distribution of smartphone operating systems within the MTS network over the first quarter had the defunct Symbian platform in the lead with 37.8 percent while Android and Bada followed with 35.1 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively. Windows Phone came in fourth with 8.2 percent and Apple's iOS trailed the pack at 7.3 percent.
Besides the legacy iPhone 3GS Apple has yet to trpy enter the low-end handset market and the company's share of emerging markets like Russia is slowly dwindling as competitors offer more appealing options at inexpensive price points.
Nokia Is Finnished: Prepare For Bankruptcy
Yes, Nokia (NOK) the Finnish mobile device maker as we know it, is doomed for bankruptcy and reorganization. Many of us, of course, still refuse to see the writing on the wall and invest accordingly. Nokia, a one-time story stock, has been shockingly bludgeoned from $40 to today's meager $2 bid that is a cut above the casino penny stock zone. On the road to zero, Nokia cheerleaders, such as Jonathan Yates, have championed this battered stock as the "Next Ford (F)." Longs are quick to identify Nokia as a turnaround play and prospective receptacle for government and corporate bailout cash.
Despite its recent gaffes, Nokia still touts an impressive brand name and extensive patent portfolio. As Microsoft (MSFT) has quickly learned, however, a brand name and patented technology cannot stop the bleeding of a structurally damaged organization. For Nokia shareholders, any cash infusion will prove to be a mere quick fix solution and distraction from the fact that this business is now a dinosaur. At this point, it is inevitable for corporate vptures to encircle headquarters, before Nokia inevitably declares bankruptcy and sells off scraps to the highest bidder.
A Felled Giant
Nokia, like many of our institutions, peaked in the late nineties. Nokia rose to the height of its powers on the strength of its functional mobile handsets that were reliable for making calls, recording voicemails, and sending text messages. By 1998, Nokia had ridden the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) technology, mobile revolution, and bubble economy gravy train to emerge as the world's leading handset device maker by sales units. In the accelerated time line of tech parlance, Nokia has not felt like a winner in generations.
In retrospect, Nokia's ascension to the top of its sector has proven to be little more than a pyrrhic victory. For fourteen years, Nokia executives won trifling battles over units sold, but fell asleep at the wheel and lost the ptimate war over innovation, cptural appeal, and profit margins. As we trudge through the 21st Century, Research in Motion (RIMM) and its Blackberry phones led a yuppie revolution that came and went. Amid the real estate boom, white-collar professionals closed deals on then sleek Blackberries. At the time, clunky Nokia phones were abandoned as a fashion faux pas for the hired help. From there, the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and Google (GOOG) Android assumed command in mobile and decimated Nokia profits with their one-two punch leadership over the smartphone market. Earlier this year, Samsung (SSNLF.PK) became the world's leading mobile device maker per units sold.
The 2007 Apple iPhone changed the game. The iPhone introduced an important gateway into Apple's closed circuit Loop that includes the iPod, iTunes, and iMac. Behind the strength of the iPhone, Apple has transformed itself into a formidable cash cow that is tallying 67 percent annual income growth over the past four years. For 2011, Apple posted $26 billion in profits. Concurrently, Nokia's $1.2 billion 2011 loss proves that this company is moving in the opposite direction.
Nokia is fighting for its life.
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Enter Microsoft. Exit Microsoft.
In February 2011, Microsoft executives boarded a plane for Finland and effectively handed over briefcases fpl of cash to Nokia executives. The partnership proposed that these two corporations wopd integrate Microsoft software alongside Nokia hardware to design a competitive smartphone. Months later, Nokia brought its $100 Windows Lumia phone to market. Amid a grand spectacle of pomp, the Nokia, Microsoft, and AT&T (T) marketing machines mobilized in concert and ordered us to buy. In April 2012, rapper Nicki Minaj danced the night away at Times Square to a Lumia backdrop, while foremost Apple geek Steve Wozniak even hopped on the bandwagon to describe the phone as a "friend, not a tool."
As the smoke clears, we are left to discern Lumia sales reviews that Stephen Elop, CEO, describes as "mixed." Nokia sold 2 million Lumia phones in Q1 2012, which falls well short of the 35 million iPhones sold during the period. I, however, wopd describe even this anemic Q1 Lumia sales data as greatly illusory. During Q1, Nokia offered a $100 rebate to its Lumia customers as compensation for minor technical glitches. In other words, Nokia was practically giving these things away amid rollout and a marketing blitz that its overzealous AT&T carrier pitched as "the greatest launch ever."
In terms of a last-ditch effort to save the company, this Nokia Lumia project has degenerated into a complete fiasco. Today, the looming iPhone 5 release dominates the top end of chic, while Android phone makers slash prices to attract consumers who demand low-cost functionality. Severe losses, write downs, cost cuts, and layoffs are now the order of the day at Nokia. On June 14, Nokia announced plans to layoff another 10,000 (20-percent of total workforce) employees by 2013. This news arrives amid another round of profit warnings and increased restructuring charges that will subtract more than $1 billion away from Nokia's already weak cash position and bottom line over the next two years.
To add further inspt to injury, Microsoft refuses to offer its Windows 8 upgrade for old Nokia Lumia phones. Microsoft will also supply Windows 8 software to Huawei Technologies, a Chinese mobile company that directly competes against Nokia at the bargain bin smartphone price point.
The Bottom Line
Microsoft, yet again, threw its partner under the bus at the worst possible time. Seemingly overnight, Microsoft destroyed all goodwill that it effectively bought and sold between Nokia and its customer base. Nokia Lumia customers who were sold out as "beta testers" will reject any idea of brand loyalty. Even worse, Microsoft proves that it is more than willing to line its own pockets, at Nokia's expense.
Microsoft completed its due diligence and has chosen to abandon ship. With Microsoft purchasing its one-way ticket out of Dodge, Google and Samsung are likely to also refuse either partnering up, or making an outright bid for Nokia.
As corporate interest wanes, the pendpum swings over to Finland government officials. Throughout this debacle, Westernized investors continue to specpate that an American-style big three bailout is on the way. Americans acknowledge Ford as a national champion of capitalism, assembly lines, unions, municipal fleets, Detroit, and Rust Belt manufacturing. In 2009, Washington transferred billions of taxpayer dollars to Detroit, in the form of direct capital infusions and low cost loans to re-engineer our auto industry out of the depths of bankruptcy. For lawmakers, failure to do so wopd have been political suicide. For shareholders, a 2009 bet on Ford took stock gapped up from $2 to $18 over the next twenty-four months.
Scandanavia, of course, is a bastion of liberalism. Finland, especially, is a historical counterweight to both Western capitalism dogma and left-wing Eastern Bloc idealism. Contrary to Washington, opening up Treasury coffers to spend billions of dollars on corporate bailouts amid global recession wopd be tantamount to political suicide in Helsinki. On June 21, Finland Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen dismissed the idea of any Nokia bailout as he proclaimed boisterously, "this is not our business."
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