China, Austin and Mobile Development

mobileTechTuesday, by Steve Guengerich

Yesterday, Austin-headquartered Digby announced that, leading Chinese specialty retailer of fashionable and contemporary apparel, had selected Digby to launch a mobile optimized website for before year’s end. Digby’s partnership is a microcosm of the greater opportunity that Austin mobile developers and app makers should be thinking about with respect China.

At a macroeconomic level, there’s no surprise as to why China is generating more interest than ever. It already surpassed Japan earlier this year to become the world’s second largest economy. To get a closer look, the Greater Austin Chamber is hosting a fall trip to China early next month – part grand tour / part economic development reconnaissance – from October 6-14.

From a mobile perspective, there should be even less of a surprise as to why China should be of tremendous interest to mobile companies. As reported by Chetan Sharma in his research from the first half of 2011, China is in a race with India for the first nation to reach 1 billion mobile subscribers, with each cumulatively adding 75 million new subs every quarter. Globally, China is #1 in mobile subscriptions, #2 in mobile revenue, and #3 in data revenue.

But there are some significant obstacles to success with mobile in China. It takes more than a sister city relationship, which Austin has had for more than a decade with sister city Xishuangbanna, China.

It takes a real understanding of and investment in the technical, political, economic, and cultural differences. To provide a primer for understanding these differences, one of the sessions from the recent ATX Startup Week ‘unconference’ was dedicated to developing mobile apps for China.  View the Slideshare of the presentation below.

This presentation was developed app developers Mike Roeder and Brandon DuRette, intended to convey general knowledge about producing apps for mobile device users in China.  For more information about their presentation, you can reach Mike and Brandon via their twitter handles, @donkeyhighway and @bdurette, respectively.

If you want to dive into the tech and mobile scene in China, then take a long, hard look at the events coming up in the next 6 months, beginning with TechCrunch’s first Disrupt international conference, scheduled in Beijing, China for October 31.  Then there is Demo Asia, next February 29 (Demo China just wrapped last month). 

To get a sense of “movers and shakers,” you may want to scan the people involved in the Dalian, China World Economic Forum – some call it the “Summer Davos” – which wrapped up just last Friday, September 16.  And, again, from a more pure mobile and tech perspective, a valuable source of people and companies is the Great Wall Club which also publishes the MobiSights blog, a consistently good daily source of mobile news and analysis about China.

China, Austin and Mobile Development

2 thoughts on “China, Austin and Mobile Development

  1. Pretty amazing, isn’t it Ben? In fact, it’s fascinating – and one of the real significant distribution model differences between China and the USA – that so many Chinese mobile phone users go to a physical store(!) to purchase apps. So, their app store is literally a brick-and-mortar store, in a majority of cases.

    That’s why having a very strong relationship with a in-country partner is so important to success. And, thus, why efforts by Groupon, eBay, and even Google to a certain extent, have n ot been successful to date.


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