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ElooMobile CEO Interview

8 July 2011, an interview with Xu Guohong, CEO of ElooMobile.

(Translated from 易路联动 CEO 徐国洪访谈)

In 2008, ElooMobile introduced OpenFace, an open platform for mobile apps development, and MobileWidget, which enables developers to make cross-platform apps easily. Essentially, ElooMobile makes mobile apps handset agnostic, so whether a user is on a smart phone or feature phone, they will be able to access a rich array of apps. With ElooMobile’s product, Yongba “用吧”, directly translated as “Use it”, feature-phone users can access apps which are only available on smartphones. So far, Xu Guohong, CEO of ElooMobile, believes that the popularity of the iPhone mobile App Store indicates that they are headed in the right direction. ElooMobile is currently the only company that provides a full set of cross-platform tools based on Open Standards for Chinese developers.

Q: What’s special about your business?
A: First, ElooMobile has cross-platform support. Our product is compatible with multiple platforms, from Symbian and Android to WP7. Second, our product supports feature phones. With Yongba “用吧” installed, a feature phone can also download apps just like any other smart phone. This is one of our major business focuses. As smartphones are the future of the market, average developers can’t afford to take the time to develop apps for feature phones. But the fact is, even though the marketshare of feature phones will drop, their absolute amount in the market will still be huge and developers just can’t ignore this.

Moreover, since we are open to both feature phones and smartphones, developers can jointly develop applications, which will gain popularity on handsets of various operating systems. As a result, we can also attract big partners like Nokia and MediaTek who both have a large market share of feature phones.

Third, there’s a low entry barrier for developers to develop on our platform. The cost of human resources is high for developing an application for Symbian or Android. It doesn’t make sense to have a high-level developer for Symbian or Android to develop simple applications for feature phones. For example, this low entry barrier allows developers who know only XML JavaScript to also develop full featured mobile apps on multiple platforms. In fact, an average graduate can become such a developer within only a week with Yongba.

Q: What do Chinese developers care about most?
A: It’s a hard to say. Mostly it’s profit; but in China, many developers are rather pessimistic. They are afraid that many users won’t download their paid apps due to piracy, and the current Chinese user behavior makes users averse to purchasing apps. Instead, developers prefer to develop free apps and rely on ads to churn in revenue, though the high cost of developing for Android makes it hard to make ends meet. As a result, many of the good Chinese developers try earn their money overseas. An example of this is Papaya Mobile, which makes most of their revenue from the US and Europe. There are also some other developers who have good ideas but lack skills to make great apps. These developers are looking for tools to turn their ideas into mobile apps. In the long run, every developer wants to profit from their apps, but now it is just a pie in the sky if any platform promises developers profit.

Q: How do you recruit developers when the iPhone and Android platforms are so attractive?
A: College graduates who have acquired excellent skills would definitely prefer to develop on iPhone and Android. However, there are some non-technical students in arts or other science disciplines who may have only learned primary development skills, or don’t even have any development skills, but have great ideas. When given the choice to develop on our platform which has a low learning curve and entry barrier, they would not probably not choose iOS or Android. Some of our tools are as simple as MS Office, allowing non-technical developers to make apps as easy as making a PPT, without having to write a single line of code. So, our targeted developers are different from pure iPhone or Android developers.

Q: Since you can simplify mobile application development, why don’t you introduce the B2B business model by charging a fee?
A: The model of charging annual fees for development tools does exist in the US and Europe, but we believe that this market is too small. Here is an analogy: Are there any companies which help SMEs set up a website, big enough to go public?

Q: What do you think of platforms like Symbian, iOS and Android?
A: It is difficult to develop applications for Symbian. It requires knowledge of C++ and Qt. Also, the market prospect of Symbian is not as good as iOS, so most developers wouldn’t choose Symbian. App development for iOS is also considerably quite difficult, and those apps can be used only on Apple devices. But the market prospect is promising with millions of users in China and many others overseas. That’s why many developers would be willing to take the time to learn iOS. Usually it only needs a month for a postgraduate developer to learn it. In China, almost all competent studios choose iOS. Technical requirements for developing on Android is relatively lower, and is also not too difficult to learn for a developer who already knows Java; but users of Android aren’t yet accustomed to paying for services, so pure Android developers haven’t earned much money.

Q: Does Yongba focus on any particular services?
A: We don’t develop all kinds of applications; for one, we are not developers for operating systems. Currently, our focus is on three kinds of mobile apps:

  1. Casual games. The user base is large, but the apps are rather small, so many developers don’t find it rewarding to develop such applications for Symbian and Android. There are definitely  more casual game developers overseas, but not here in China.
  2. Tools apps such as curriculum schedule and encyclopedia
  3. News apps such as newspapers and magazines. These applications are very convenient to use and is very popular among Chinese mobile users.

Q: How are you promoting Yongba?
A: We preinstall it on many feature phones. Users can use Yongba to both download and run applications. Essentially, Yongba is just like an AppStore on the handset, and currently, our partners include Oppo, ZTE and Amoi. Smartphone users can download Yongba through many channels. We also have a download website:

Q: As the CEO of ElooMobile, what do you care about most?
A: The top three things that concern me the most are 1. User feedback; 2. Products; 3. Employees.

About ElooMobile

ElooMobile was established in November 2006, with a registered capital of 11.45 million yuan. ElooMobile has offices in Beijing, Shenzhen and Wuhan. ElooMobile Technology Co., Ltd. is a leading mobile Internet applications and mobile app development platform provider in China. The company independently developed OpenFace, an open, cross-platform, mobile apps development and publishing platform. With OpenFace, mobile developers can develop apps on multiple platforms, including Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile, BREW and feature phones. ElooMobile’s goal is to bring rich applications to all platforms of mobile phones, whether on smartphones or feature phones, to create a healthy ecosystem for application developers. Yongba, the AppStore of ElooMobile, has been preinstalled in three million handsets with over 100 mobile apps.

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