GetJar CEO Ilja Laurs will use the podium at next week's Mobile Connections show to advise developers on what kind of business models they should use to monetize their apps—whether via direct payment, in-app advertising or virtual goods. One thing he won't advise is for developers to count on operators to help make them any money.
After years of working with operators to provide an alternate app store to those of the big platform providers, Laurs has arrived at the opinion that operators have absolutely no influence over their customers when it comes to where they go on the mobile Web and what they download. “Essentially,” Laurs said in an interview this week, “their customers are ignoring them.”
Laurs talked with Kevin Fitchard of MobileDevPro sister publication Connected Planet, detailing how mobile operators have lost "the app store battle," essentially losing their route to the customer in the process.
After years of crafting app store deals with some of the world’s biggest operators—AT&T, Sprint and Vodafone to name a few—carrier-driven downloads account for only 10% of all of GetJar's downloads. That’s total downloads, not revenue, Laurs said, adding:
“Once we realized this wasn’t a fast way to scale, we gave up on it. We still have those deals in place, but we don’t promote the opportunity at all anymore. … We learned that it would take 1000 carrier deals to double our profits. The return on investment is way less than our direct-to-consumer effort.”In Laurs’s opinion, operators occupy a different world than the Internet and software companies that are coming to dominate the mobile data realm. Wireless is populated by engineers—guys who can build one heck of a network, but who are largely clueless when it comes to monetizing non-telecom services. The operators are slowly expanding their vision and expertise beyond the gateways and routers of the network. But according to Laurs, they’re doing it too slowly.
“They don’t really own their traffic,” Laurs said. “Even though a carrier might have 50 million users, they might be able to get only 1% to their deck. That’s of very little use to us.”
And that has big implications for developers.
Read the full interview with Laurs at Connected Planet: GetJar: Operators have lost the consumer
And hear more from Laurs at next week's Mobile Connections show