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By 10 September 2009 | Categories: news

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The availability of mobile applications to smartphone users is about as important as their ability to make calls. In a word, indispensable. I would go as far as to say that a smartphone is almost pointless if there is no way to personalise the device to suit individual needs through the use of applications.

So, is the ability to post tweets, update your Facebook status on the go or even do a little mobile banking restricted to the domain of high-end smartphones? Well, thanks to Microsoft\'s OneApp it isn\'t.

mibli, powered by Microsoft OneApp, was officially launched today in South Africa. OneApp is a powerful platform for building, deploying and publishing mobile apps and making them available to regular cellphone users. Utilising this power mibli lets users of regular cellphones, so-called feature phones, access online services like Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live Messenger and more, using a fraction of the memory on their phone and minimal data to connect to the Internet. Consequently, it enables access where there was none before.

mibli\'s real power, however, lies in the Blue Label Telecoms prepaid products and services it allows users to access. As mibli is a Mobile Services Company (MSC) project, with MSC being a subsidiary of Blue Label Telecoms (BLT), users can access services like buying airtime and prepaid electricity, or in future purchasing commuter tickets directly off their handset.

Easy to setup, the application is only 151 kb and can be used on GPRS-enabled cellphones. I tried it out on a Sony Ericsson W880i and a Nokia 5630 and was quite impressed by its speed and ease of use. Dr. David Fraser, CTO of BLT, estimates that approximately 80% of cellphones in our country are capable of running mibli. The way I see it then, is that the platform will come as close to creating a digital democracy as makes no difference.

On the other side of the coin, mibli is also a platform for local apps developers. With an apps store due for release later this year, the platform has the potential to create a market that is accessible to all mobile users and therefore has the potential to create true scale for developers. "We believe this will drive business growth for South Africa\'s dynamic mobile industry. The launch of mibli powered by Microsoft OneApp in South Africa is a major leap forward for the developers who want to create new, locally relevant applications, for the marketers who want to reach new audiences, and for the customers who deserve more from their feature phones," says JJ Botha, CEO of MSC.

The only question now is whether or not developing world users, often people living hand-to-mouth, will be interested in tweeting, although, with more than a million South African users already, Facebook should be more popular. What we can expect is instant messaging (IM) to remain popular in SA as up take of the platform increases, where according to KMPG\'s Consumers and Convergence Survey 82% of mobile users already utilise mobile IM.

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