Deal to develop 500 applications for Microsoft’s latest mobile operating system is the largest ever in the Canadian mobile app development industry.
Enabling businesses to extend their presence across mobile devices has made Toronto-based Polar Mobile a global leader. With world renowned customers in more than 10 countries, Polar has developed over 350 apps in multiple languages to date. Currently, more than 6.5 million people in 100 countries use its mobile applications (apps).
The company’s proprietary platform (SMART™), an automated system that solves the complexities of delivering multimedia content to different devices, caught the attention of Microsoft, along with other big-name media clients such as Time, The Hockey News, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Shanghai Daily, CBS Sports, CNNMoney and others.
When Microsoft recently announced that Polar Mobile would craft 500 apps for its new Windows Phone 7, the deal was the largest ever in Canadian app development history. Harp Girn, Microsoft’s Marketing and Strategy Lead for the developer and platform group said, “At a high level, we liked Polar’s global presence and ability to scale.”
In the media space, Polar dominates the sports vertical, serving more sports publishers than anyone else in mobile. The company and CBSSports.com College Network just launched 190 apps that bring the U.S. broadcaster’s online GameTracker™ service to mobile for 95 NCAA schools showing scores, schedules and news.
According to Polar’s CEO and founder, Kunal Gupta, timing and circumstances — as well as having a global outlook — has worked in the company’s favour from the beginning.
Polar’s success has brought attention to Greater Toronto’s reputation as a world-leading hub for mobile apps companies. The Mobile Experience Innovation Center, a non-profit research and consulting organization, estimates there are 200 mobile-apps-development companies in the Greater Toronto area, and 750 companies also have mobile-content offerings.
Proximity to several schools with world-class computer science and design programs is one reason for Toronto’s emergence as a mobile apps hotbed. Availability of public and private-sector funding another, as is access to experienced entrepreneurs and engineers from Blackberry-maker RIM, whose headquarters are just one hour west of Toronto.
The city also provides access to a diverse, multicultural and highly skilled workforce. Of the labour force of 1.3 million people, 800,000 have a post secondary education. Toronto residents represent more than 100 different ethnic groups, making the city a vibrant cultural mosaic.
Canada is a major global hub for software engineering and development. According to Software magazine, 20 of the top 500 global software firms originated in Canada, second only to the United States. Canada is home to global players such as Adobe, Oracle, IBM (including Cognos) and Microsoft, and home-grown industry leaders that include Brainhunter, Constellation, Descartes, Emergis, Enghouse Systems, Matrikon and Polar Mobile.
Software companies in Canada are world-renowned for developing high-quality, innovative and cost-effective applications. This culture of innovation is fostered through generous R&D credits (Canada offers the lowest R&D costs in the G7, with a 12.9% advantage over the U.S.), industry clusters, and a progressive regulatory regime. In 2008 software publishers in Canada spent $650 million on R&D and earned revenues of $6.8 billion.
On a per-capita basis, Canada is one of the most active generators of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) patent applications filed with the European Patent Office. Toronto tied with New York for being at the top of North American cities for ICT and electronics patents.
Future growth plans
Keeping up with opportunity appears to be the major challenge facing Polar Mobile.
“What has changed today versus two years ago is that they’re not selling phones on hardware and price,” said Polar CEO Kunal Gupta. “They realize that people are buying based on apps and content, and they see us providing a one-to-many strategy.”
Unlike traditional app development shops, Polar doesn’t develop custom applications for clients from scratch. Instead, the company uses a platform approach based on pre-designed templates. Customers fill out a digital form listing their requirements, their content feeds and other variables, and then Polar’s proprietary software creates the app automatically.
This process allows Polar to produce products at a much faster pace than competitors. At the beginning of the year, the company had produced 50 apps, but by the end of this year it will produce more than 500.
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