Blaast Hopes to Take Off in Indonesia
Apple’s iPhone redefined the smartphone and kickstarted the public’s craze for the gadget. People camped outside stores for days to be the first owners of these amazing gizmos. Then the buzz around the iPad was even more sensational and created another market as Apple’s competitors started to concentrate on building their own tablets.
While most consumers are focused on the latest products to come out, they often don’t think about who or what creates the content. Apple, for example, has been cultivating its developer community through the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). Since 1983, the annual event has unveiled new releases, infamous Steve Jobs speeches and provided an opportunity for developers to start building and give feedback to the company. Thanks in part to the work done by those developers, Apple now has about half a million apps for its app store, while competitor Android offers 100,000 apps with more being marketed every day.
A Helsinki-based mobile startup named Blaast understands that these ecosystems are key. Inventing a new gadget is expensive, and nobody wants to end up like Microsoft, which spent about $1 billion developing the Kin smartphone — only to watch it go obsolete in two months. So instead of creating a new mobile phone for the already-competitive market, Blaast decide to create a support system.
The main target is the silent majority of featured phones in developing countries, where most people’s initial Internet exp[erience is on a mobile phone. Feature phones are devices that combine the functions of a phone with a personal digital assistant, but aren’t as advanced as smartphones. Feature phones are still a large market, even in a developed country such as the United States. In Indonesia, about 70 percent of the 50 million mobile phone users own feature phones, mostly Nokia’s low-end models.
Blaast Head of Developer Relations Daniel Bergqvist said the system is a cloud-based mobile application platform. It might be a mouthful but it’s actually quite simple. Like how we stream videos with YouTube, Blaast users stream apps instead of downloading them. This method fixes the problem of low capacity in feature phones.
“We want to bring the smartphone experience to feature phones,” Bergqvist said.
Bergqvist explained that Blaast streamlines the traffic between mobile phones and the Internet by positioning its cloud server between the two, Blaast then resizes a megabyte of data traffic into 100 kilobytes. Bergqvist has been traveling in Indonesia including stops in Jakarta, Bandung, Malang and soon, Bali, to meet with local developers and entice them into making apps for Blaast.
The company has also chosen 10 Indonesian developers to be its ambassadors and spread the word about the Finnish company in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta.
Blaast is scheduled to launch here as soon as it is officially partnered with a local mobile operator, something that Bergqvist predicts will be finished next week.
Blaast CEO and co-founder Joonas Hjelt said that the company chose Indonesia for its pilot market because of the popularity of social media in the country over the last couple of years. Indonesia has the second highest number of Facebook users and the third highest number of Twitter users in the world. It also has a small number of fixed Internet or broadband connects, but a very high number of mobile phone users.
Rates for Blaast are Rp 1,000 for one day of access, Rp 5,000 for a weekly subscription and Rp 15,000 for monthly access. When people subscribe to Blaast, they will get access to about 100 apps, which include games, a messaging service, news by Detik.com, celebrity news by KapanLagi.com and football scores by LiveScore.