If you listen to Kennedy Kachwanya, African developers should be developing for smartphones, not feature phones. In fact, just last week, I was talking with Moses Kemibaro about InMobi’s retreat from the African market. InMobi saw its future in video ads and left Africa’s feature phone users in search of smartphone riches.
I wonder how both are feeling this week, now that WhatsApp sold for $16 Billion to Facebook. (As a fun aside, check out TechZim’s take on what $16 billion buys in Zimbabwe, complete with infographic.)
Feature phone riches
See, I’m in agreement with the kids over at TextIt. Facebook bought WhatsApp not for their technology prowess – they wrote their whole application in J2ME – but for their user reach and momentum. Yes, really, Java 2 Mobile Edition, which few of you remember, much less ever wrote code for. But there are hundreds of millions of J2ME handsets still in use around the world.
Make those handsets use the relatively cheaper data layer, instead of exorbitantly expensive SMS technology to send data, and boom! You have rabid adoption rates on feature phones that scare Mark Zuckerburg to making new billionaires overnight, with nary a smartphone in sight.
Oh and I’ll leave you with this. In addition to $16 billion for the company, Facebook is paying $3 billion in employee retention bonuses… for 55 staff. You do the math on that one.