The worldwide proliferation of mobile computing devices _ from smartphones to tablet computers _ is playing a major role in widening the mobile application market in Thailand.
The trend is also creating a new breed of services _ mobile software development _ and accelerating demand for mobile-app developers in the country.
|A customer uses his mobile-phone camera to scan the QR codes on mock-up products and place an order for home delivery at Tesco Homeplus Subway virtual store in Seoul.|
"Given the competitive rates charged by Thai skilled-labour resources and the country's reliable business infrastructure, Thailand has an opportunity to become a mobile development hub in Asia," said Sean Choi, chief executive of Appsphere Group, a South Korean-Thai mobile software development joint venture.
A recent study conducted by TechNet, the bipartisan policy and political network of technology CEOs that promotes the growth of the innovation economy, finds the number of "app economy" jobs totalled 466,000 in the US last year compared with zero in 2007.
The figure shows that each application development creates various jobs _ from programmers, user-interface designers, marketers, and managers to supporting staff.
Research2guidance, a mobile market research company, said the global market for application development services including application creation management, distribution and extension services will grow by 158% to US$100 billion by 2015 from $10.2 billion in 2010.
A research study conducted by the National Science and Technology Development Agency and the Information and Communication Technology Ministry founded that the Thai mobile app market was worth 9.8 billion baht last year, up from 6.3 billion baht in 2010.
Mr Choi said mobile app developers are in high demand in Asia. In South Korea alone, big telecoms and IT firms including Korea Telecom, SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics hired tens of thousands of mobile app developers each year.
Appsphere has 20 app developers, split evenly between those specialising in Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating system.
Although Thailand faces a shortage of skilled mobile app and software-web developers, the situation has improved somewhat in recent years. In any case, Mr Choi urged the Thai government to provide financial support for training courses to improve the quality of the workforce.
He said as an emerging market for mobile apps, Thailand has plenty of room for growth. "This is why we decided to have a business presence here," he added.
Mr Choi claimed Appsphere is a perfect combination of mobile and digital marketing strengths and local business and publishing networks. The company has developed mobile apps now available for free downloading at Apple's App Store and Google's Android market.
One of them, the JJ market app, provides the maps of some 10,000 shops in the Chatuchak weekend market. Its KISS application allows users to take photos and apply various styles of kisses on them.
|The Home screen of Appsphere’s JJ application|
He said the free apps could create advertising revenue in the future, increasing its brand awareness and product recognition.
Appsphere also provides mobile app development services to corporate customers in Thailand and overseas. The company also has sales and marketing networks in South Korea and Europe.
Mr Choi said he believed the local mobile app market would take off this year and gain momentum, fuelled by great demand stemming from the transition to digital television.
Based on Prakit Holdings's research, digital marketing spending in Thailand was valued at 38 million baht this year, up 31.7% year-on-year.
Globally, a company spends 20% of its budget on digital marketing advertisements which include mobile apps, Mr Choi said.
To promote Thailand as a key player in mobile-app development, creating a pool of local talent for the public is necessary, said Atir Raihan, the managing director of Vervata, an international mobile software development firm.
But Mr Raihan acknowledges that companies in Thailand have not reached a knowledge-based level due to limited access to capital, complicated labour laws, strict requirements on working permits for experts and poor English language skills.
"If all of these obstacles are fixed, Thailand could attract high-calibre people and promote the country to become a mobile innovation hub in Southeast Asia," he said.
Founded in 2004, Vervata faced difficulties operating business in the Thai market due to limited availability of wireless devices and skilled people, Mr Raihan said.
But he said things have changed tremendously for now. A greater variety of devices, content developers and more user-friendly mobile operating systems like Apple and Android are now mainstream, leading to greater recognition of mobile apps.
There are more than 1 million apps in the App Store and Android Market, most of which cost less than a dollar.
Mr Raihan admitted it would be difficult for his company to compete in the consumer applications market due to its large-scale organisation. Vervata is expanding to the enterprise mobile device management market in Europe this year. The firm also plans to tap the US market next year.