PROGRAMMED TO EXCEL: Abdullah Khan (left) and Ali Razzouk came up with the idea for the mobile app Tipbox after noticing the trend of '10 tips about something' all over the media Image Credit: PANKAJ SHARMA/Gulf News

Mobile applications have made average neighbourhood developers into extremely wealthy individuals overnight. Christopher Stone, Evan Williams (Twitter); Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin (Facebook) and Kevin Systrom and Michel Krieger (Instagram) have paved the way for anyone with a good idea and a fair amount of programming knowledge. Two names that have the means to join the big guns are UAE-based developers Ali Razzouk (18) and Abdullah Khan (19) with their potential million dollar app Tipbox.

The two second-year computer science students from the University of Wollongong, Dubai campus, came up with the idea of Tipbox after noticing a trend of “10 tips about something” all over the media. “Tipbox makes it easier to discover and share tips that are actually useful,” says Razzouk. “It is tip sharing, reinvented for your iPhone. It’s an ever-growing collection of short, simple and personal tips, posted by people just like yourself from their everyday experiences on anything you can think of.” Within 24 hours of its launch on the App Store, Tipbox gained a 100 users.

Like Razzouk and Khan, several other students are also showing interest in developing applications, with a handful of home-grown developers operating within the country.

A full-time career

Amir Jahanlou, a senior programming lecturer at SAE Institute, Dubai, says many of his students are already on their way to developing applications of their own. “The SAE iPhone Apps development course focuses on the fundamentals of application programming along with the business model of the Apple App Store. Participants will be introduced to the programming environment for application development and will have a hands-on approach to programming using the Objective-C language,” he says.

When asked if students can go on to make a full-time career in application development in the country, Jahanlou explains that the best aspect of mobile development is its independent nature. “Beyond developing your own project and marketing on various app stores, there are currently more than 10 companies in the UAE developing apps and a number of investment funds such as AppsArabia that specialise in app development, and they all look for skilled developers on a regular basis,” he says.

AppsArabia promotes mobile app development throughout the Middle East and North Africa region. The company specialises in funding the development of apps and facilitates it by connecting developers with entrepreneurs and creative professionals so developers do not necessarily have to create applications alone.

Companies such as Emirates NBD, Dubai Events and Promotions Establishments, Roads and Transport Authority and Emaar’s The Dubai Mall have smartphone applications that have been well received in the country.

Charbel Daou, CEO and Founder of Dow Group, a business solutions company based in Lebanon and with a marketing consultancy service in Dubai, explains that application development can sometimes be referred to as developing a software process. Businesses today are looking to technology to raise productivity and streamline a company’s effectiveness. “Current economic trends allow applications to become more flexible. Application developers are constantly creating software that meets the needs of contemporary business requirements.”

Marketing applications

UAE-based companies are starting to adopt mobile applications as an additional customer offering. Mars Mlodzinski, Company Partner and Editorial Director of Leading Brands Publishing, a Dubai-based custom content agency says they have seen their clients shifting selected activities from print to apps, as custom apps allow brands to reach a wider audience and allow them to interact directly with their target audience.

Jahanlou explains that developing a very simple application, such as a portfolio of a company, would take about five days. An advanced app, such as Facebook for iPhone and others that are more interactive in nature can take upwards of three months. To market your application on an app store, an initial registration fee is required (usually below Dh367 and that depends on the app store) and acknowledgement of a revenue sharing system of 70 per cent to the developer and 30 per cent to the provider.

How much money can you make from a full-time career in application development? “Skilled and experienced developers who are sought after can make an (annual) average of about Dh370,000 these days,” says Jahanlou.

If you have ever believed that you could be the next Systrom or Krieger, that final figure was the only thing needed to pursue your hobby and perhaps turn it into a full-time career.