Blue Label and Microsoft team up for mobile app in SA

The official launch of mibli™ powered by Microsoft OneApp™ in Johannesburg today

September 11, 2009

The official launch of mibli™ powered by Microsoft OneApp™ in Johannesburg today.

Blue Label Telecoms, developed the technology in association with its strategic business partner in emerging markets, Microsoft.

As a branded product of the Mobile Services Company (MSC), a subsidiary of Blue Label Telecoms, mibli™ powered by Microsoft OneApp™ is targeted at young, on-the-go cellphone users in South Africa. It’s free to download, although network charges do apply, and includes a wide range of interactive features, such as Facebook, Twitter, miLocate™ and Mobi-Wallet™. The download is “light-weight” in terms of its memory requirements (150KB).

The mibli™ suite of Apps is accessed through a single, virtual window in the installations menu of a cellphone. The Apps don’t use much memory either. They’re 30KB each and a “cloud” service frees up cellphone capacity by storing Apps, which aren’t in use.

This has all been done, so that mibli™ powered by Microsoft OneApp™ is able to work on nearly every make and model of cellphone. GPRS (3G) and Java are the only requirements from a functionality perspective. Copy and graphics are part of the package.

For prepaid cellphone users especially, file size and speed are major advantages. Handsets aren’t always that advanced and usage doesn’t chew up large amounts of airtime.

Previously, this level of connectivity and interactivity was only available on top-of-the-range smartphones. “It’s like getting a free cellphone upgrade at the push of a button,” says Dr David Fraser, Chief Technology Officer of Blue Label Telecoms.

He estimates that 80% of cellphones in our country are capable of running mibli™ powered by Microsoft OneApp™. Since South Africa is expected to have about 50 million cellphone users by December 2009, Fraser is optimistic about the scale of the opportunity, particularly in emerging markets.

There are 2.2 billion cellphone users worldwide. Analysts forecast that the number will jump to 3 billion by the end of this year, with much of the growth in emerging economies, like India, Africa and Latin America. These are markets where Blue Label Telecoms is actively engaged.

The decision to progress a mobile solution was an easy one. This was mainly due to the very low levels of Internet penetration in emerging markets. According to the Internet Usage & Marketing Report, South Africa had 4.5 million Internet users in 2008. When compared to our population of 44 million, we only have 10.5% Internet penetration. On the other hand, cellphone penetration is 98%.

“As a result of mibli™ powered by Microsoft OneApp™, we’ve added millions of virtual points of presence to our footprint “just like that”. Today, every cellphone user has the ability to access and vend our prepaid products and services, including airtime and electricity. Cross-border money transfers and commuter ticketing are also in the pipeline. Consumers can do everything they need to do, wherever they are, via the Mobi-Wallet™ feature. In this way, we’re providing better service and convenience, as well as developing the potential of entrepreneurs, and unlocking value for our shareholders and economy as a whole.”

In addition, mibli™ powered by Microsoft OneApp™ offers social networking platforms, which many consumers couldn’t access in the past. This levels the playing field in terms of the ability to communicate.

Apps are built using XML or Java-script and work on all cellphones that have installed OneApp™. Until now, different makes and models of cellphones needed different “makes and models” of Apps.

Blue Label Telecoms and Microsoft are discussing the launch of mibli™ powered by Microsoft OneApp™ in other emerging markets. Further announcements will follow in due course.