As more people consume data through apps on their mobile devices instead of websites, many have written off browsers. Not everyone feels that way though. Jon S von Tetzchner is the Co-Founder of Opera software, and he feels that Internet browsers remain the dominant way through which people are accessing the Internet, particularly in developing countries like India, where more people have phones than computers.
Speaking at the 5th India Digital Summit in Delhi, he illustrated his point by saying, “Look at your computer. How many programs do you have? If you count the Office suite as one program, then there are probably less than five ‘apps’ on your computer. Everything else is online. Earlier, the mobile platform was not good enough for the Internet, but with cheaper technology, people can access the full Internet on their phones easily.”
The Opera Mini browser comes bundled with a number of new devices in India, including Videocon, Micromax, Spice and Lava, all of which run Opera Mini. Tetzchner said, “We see that people mostly access the same sites as they do on PC. They look at the full site, not just WAP sites, and in the last year, we increased almost 300 per cent in usage. The top ten devices online in India are all Nokia phones. In other markets, we see smartphones like the iPhone in the top slot. Here, web consumption is on feature phones.”
The Nokia 5130 is the top data consumer on the list, available on the Nokia website for Rs 4,999. In places like Gaffar Market in Delhi, the price is lower still. Tetzchner felt that the huge growth potential for India, for marketers and manufacturers, lay in focussing their attention on this segment.
He said, “There are already three major platforms, and to be present on a person’s phone now, you need an app for the App Store, and another app for the Android market, and another one for Symbian. For developers, that means you spend more, and maintain more. This diversification will continue as more devices connect to the Internet. We need a uniform standard and the best one around is the Internet.”
Not everyone agreed with him though, as Badri Sanjeevi, CEO, Mauj, said, “While the mobile web is important, right now we all need to focus on a multi-pronged approach. We need to scale from Web to SMS to voice. The browser, the app, and actual physical centers all need to be incorporated to form a proper solution to reach the end user.”
According to Kevin D’Souza, Growth Manager (India), for Facebook, the real way to reach people in India on mobile was still SMS. “The web is a unifying platform, but we have to leverage it to best serve our customers. We have to make it as convenient for them as it is possible,” he said, adding, “We want to connect to one billion Indians. That will happen through services like SMS. Almost half our users in India interact through SMS, and mobile users in general tend to be more engaged in their interactions than people on the web.”