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What Apple’s new software accelerator means for India

Sahil Mohan Gupta
Sahil Mohan GuptaMay 18, 2016 | 18:03

What Apple’s new software accelerator means for India

On expected lines, on May 18, Apple announced a new iOS design and development accelerator in India. The announcement coincides with Apple CEO Tim Cook’s visit to India, which comes at a crucial time for the company as it is grappling with declining sales.

In my books, it does have the potential to have a big impact on the Indian "start-up" ecosystem, apart from getting Apple into the good books of the Indian government, as this programme seemingly promotes PM Modi’s start-up India and Digital India initiatives.

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Tim Cook's India visit may is a big opportunity for Indian developers.

But what does it really mean for Apple and India’s developer community? There could be five big things that Apple could be playing upon.  

The big problem for Apple in India is that we are primarily an Android market. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced in 2015 that he will expand Google’s Hyderabad campus and intends to train more than two million developers by the next three years.

Apple inevitably had to counter this because in India the market share of the iPhone is irrelevant compared to that of Android smartphones. Here, the developers design for Android first as opposed to iOS, which is a common practice in Silicon Valley.

If Apple has to change this, it has to have a broader training programme. In India, developers aren’t as well-versed with Apple’s Swift development language, which is at the heart of the 64-bit architecture based software environment for iOS. Apple needs to catch up with Android, and to do that it needs to start with the people who make these apps.

If you look at iOS, apart from Zomato, and some of the local e-commerce apps from Flipkart and Snapdeal, there aren’t enough apps which have been made and developed in India.

Apple could use the help with software development, because in the past few years, it has proven to be a step behind the likes of Microsoft, Google and Facebook. Apple could scout out local talent from the software accelerator in Bangalore. If you look at the Google and Microsoft executive teams, they are riddled with Indians.

Heck, their CEOs are Indians. Apple, on the flip-side, is a different story. It seemingly doesn’t have as many engineers of Indian descent as its rivals. The company acknowledges this fact in its official press release.

“India is home to one of the most vibrant and entrepreneurial iOS development communities in the world,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With the opening of this new facility in Bengaluru, we’re giving developers access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world.”

As the iPhone has become more popular in India, there has surely been an increase in the need for developers who are well-versed in Swift - the development language for iOS apps. Apple says that recruitment firm Toptal points out that the need for iOS developers increased by 600 per cent in 2015.

It is also worth noting that iOS doesn’t only cater to the iPhone, but it is at the heart of the iPad, and watchOS and tvOS - powering the Apple Watch and Apple TV -  its offshoots. There are more than a billion devices running on iOS and it is only logical that Apple leverages India’s supremely talented developer community.

For Indian developers, this is a big opportunity. iOS is, by far, the most lucrative app development platform. In Q1 of 2015, the revenue growth of iOS developers was a staggering 70 per cent higher than the ones on Android as per App analytics website App Annie. It just makes economical sense for a developer to develop on iOS.

Additionally, App Annie says that if an app is featured by Apple on the App Store, its downloads can go up by as much as 500 per cent. The same can’t be said about the Google Play Store. This is certainly going to be great for the developer community and the economy per se.

Apple has to show some serious commitment towards PM Modi’s Digital India, Start-up India and Make in India initiatives. Already, government representatives have roadblocked Tim Cook’s plan to import refurbished iPhones in India.

One thing is clear: Apple will be unable to jump on to the Make in India bandwagon overnight, so to appease the government, it has to do something and this software accelerator is exactly that.

Cook may make more announcements, which could also include plans for opening the Apple stores in India, but the accelerator is a good start. One has to remember that Google and Microsoft have made some big announcements in India, and Apple too must return in kind.

Last updated: May 19, 2016 | 11:49
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