I recently spoke with Barak Ben-Ezer, Director of Business Development at LibraFestival (formerly ApParty), a Tel Aviv-based mobile application development company. LibraFestival is the company behind the hugely successful iFog app – the app has been purchased from Apple’s App Store more than 200,000 times for $0.99 – and a series of others, including iLoogie, iSplat, and Mr. Mistletoe Kiss. The team allocates roughly 70 percent of its resources towards developing its own applications, but also develops custom applications for corporate clients.
The company can empathize with other developers that have had difficulty getting App Store approval. (Note to developers: don’t use photos of the late Saddam Hussein in your applications, especially if the main focus of your application is on throwing pies and other objects at featured characters.) But Barack was quick to point out that the iPhone platform, despite the challenging and sometimes inconsistent approval process of the App Store, represents a major step forward relative to what was previous available to mobile application developers.
This is an important point. While tech journalists have criticized Apple for its draconian approach, the introduction of the iPhone platform will be looked back on as a defining event in the history of mobile devices, arguably as significant as the introduction of the graphical user interface to PCs in the early 1980s. While the ‘walled garden’ mobile ecosystem still exists to some extent, the clout of the mobile operators is diminishing to the benefit of consumers and developers around the world. Apple has been instrumental in giving this transition momentum, and seems determined to keep improving the platform for developers. For example, Barak indicated that the recent introduction of in-application payments and subscription payments are two welcome developments for LibraFestival.
That said, the company is also welcoming of competing platforms, and is currently developing its first Android application for a client. Barak notes some of the advantages of Google’s recently released Android 2.0 operating system, including the fact that it is open source and supports applications running in the background. The openness and versatility of the Android platform do create some different challenges, however, given the variety of form-factors and devices that developers are required to consider.
A major focus for LibraFestival right now is on developing a robust iPhone solution for the financial services industry, which will be offered on a white-label basis. It sounds very interesting and we will cover the project in-depth as it emerges from stealth mode. The company is also open to taking on new projects and forming new partnerships. While LibraFestival has been self-funded to date, with proceeds from App Store sales being used to fuel growth, it is currently on an investor road-show and is engaged in discussions with prospective angel investors.