For Carriers Facing an OTT Apps Perfect Storm, There's Hope
"Operators are in an excellent position to raise the bar with today's social messaging services," said Jim Mains, senior vice president of Global Products and Programs at Smith Micro Software. "They offer a more secure, trusted and reliable service; whereas with OTT apps, do you really know who has access to your messages and personal information?" The reported added that carriers also stand to benefit from the real estate they occupy. "One of the biggest challenges of OTT apps is discovery—there are thousands of them and growing every day," wrote Sunil Marolia, vice president of product management. "With the right visual messaging platform, operators can take advantage of prime real estate on the device to offer premium services that generate revenue beyond the one-time app purchase." The OTT Perfect Storm"This is what convergence looks like," Saxena told eWEEK. "I've been in this industry the last 12, 13 years. This is what it looks like." Nimbuzz has more than 150 million users across 200 countries. A majority of those users are in the United States, though Saxena says the app is really "entrenched" in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia, particularly in markets where "credit cards really don't work and aren't used for essential-to-life things." He explained, "We made Nimbuzz free of data charges, and the games [people use] can be monetized through our own air time. It's a real currency in emerging markets—mobile time is like cash. How we do it is, if you want to buy a game or something, we debit it from the airtime of the user. Then, the telecom operators also gain." Nimbuzz stands out from its competitors, he says, because it has more features—it provides users with the "complete roster" of their friends. Not just their phone book, but their Yahoo contacts, Facebook and Nimbuzz Buddies. Additionally, "we believe there's a whole world of make new friends that's developing really fast," said Saxena. Nimbuzz makes it possible to message other users using a numeric ID; a user can hide his identity until he chooses to disclose it. It's a popular feature in very traditional cultures where unrelated men and women have minimal options for communicating. A trend of the recent OTT boom, says Saxena, is that the telecoms are recognizing a need to change their ways. "They feel like they own users," and not that they're a utility, offering something that users pay for as they use it, Saxena told eWEEK. "Their cost structure is not geared toward being a utility." The consequence is that users will turn elsewhere. "Every day I wake up and hear about some new messaging app doing something," he said. The week he spoke to eWEEK, TextNow reintroduced itself as an IP-based mobile carrier and WhatsApp added voice capabilities. "I feel proud that we were one of the pioneers who saw this coming—we saw that people would be making VOIP calls, messaging each other. I'm proud that this came together and Nimbuzz is a market leader," Saxena said contentedly. "We are living the perfect storm." Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.
Vikas Saxena, CEO of Nimbuzz, expects the OTT market to keep evolving.