An exclusive Q&A with the handset maker's developer relations chief.
Sony Ericsson is in the middle of a global tour to explain its app store strategy to a handpicked group of tier one developers.
The 15 location roadshow has been conceived to accelerate the creation of compelling apps for Sony Ericsson devices – with generous rewards offered in return.
In this exclusive interview, ME asked Christopher David, head of developer and partner engagement at Sony Ericsson, about all things app.
What's the scope of this developer tour?
The roadshow is going to 15 locations including Nordics, Brazil, Asia, West and East Coast US, France, Germany and more. We plan to meet between 20 and 50 developers at each, and they'll be the premier developers in their locations.
What are you looking to achieve?
Our mantra is accessibility. We'll keep the barrier low with no submission fee or membership cost. We want to make the platform a one stop shop as far as possible. More specifically, we want to define a hero programme for the very best partners.
The aim is to build a business together, one with genuine rewards built in. We're not looking for dozens of Sudoko games, but for apps that enhance the Sony Ericsson mobile experience. So there will be tangible benefits for our partners to include access to tools, distribution, marketing and position.
Give me an example.
Well, we would look to offer a 'five days to portal' promise.
What's the backstory for the Sony Ericsson app store? You haven't been as vocal as Nokia or Apple, for example.
We've been running an app store of sorts since 2002 when we launched Fun And Downloads and subsequently PlayNow. But obviously that was run on a selective basis.
So in the summer, we opened up the app marketplace to developers, and formed a partnership with Getjar too. The store is live in 69 countries, and accessible in 240m devices.
What is the process for developers looking to join in?
If they have an idea they want to nurture, they can submit concepts to Sony Ericsson Labs for incubation and comment by the community. Alternatively, they can go through submit.sonyericsson.com. We aim for a 30 day period from submission to the channel.
And the payments?
Time to money is very very important. We work on a 70:30 rev share and when the developer share reaches 500 euros they get paid automatically every 30 days.
How many apps are live now?
We have around 150 apps live with 400 in the pipeline. So far 90 per cent of apps have been approved. There's the technical side: Does it launch? Does it fill the screen? Does it use touch where applicable and so on. But we're also looking at products that enhance the proposition. And we've been pleasantly surprised by the high standard in this respect.
150 doesn't seem like many in the light of Apple's 75,000.
Well, as I said, we're going for quality over quantity – and don't forget we have GetJar for the long tail.
In the past, Sony Ericsson has been very amenable to operator concerns about what could be perceived as competitive services. Now that you're ramping up your app store, does that remain the case?
Any phone can run PlayNow and Arena, but in major territories we're looking at ways to integrate operator services with our own. We'll make sure there's always a channel that makes the best apps for Sony Ericsson available to Sony Ericsson users.
Mmm. What does that mean in practice? An operator store with a link to a Sony Ericsson channel?
Yes, obviously that's one option - hypothetically.
With a rev share for the operator?
Finally, what's the endgame with all of this? Apps can never generate the kind of revenues that hardware sales do, yet there's huge effort and investment in services. Ultimately, what's it all for?
Are we looking at massive profits from apps? Currently, no. But what we're working towards are solutions that knit together a group of elements to deliver great consumer experiences - the hardware, OS, middleware, user interface and so on.
We know we can't generate the best ideas solely from within our organisation, so we're reaching out to developers.
And we're doing it now because there's a new era beginning at Sony Ericsson. The portfolio is very exciting, starting with the Xperia X2, Satio and Aino. But beyond that we have some genuinely exciting new devices to come.