I've always been a massive fan of the regional business monthly Arabies Trends, and was delighted to contribute the last word to their May 2010 issue. Here's the full text of my interview:
1. Tell me about Flip’s new application for the iPhone that you recently unveiled.
Naviflix is a one-stop movie guide iPhone application, a first in the UAE. The concept behind Naviflix came from our everyday lives. As movie buffs, we found ourselves increasingly frustrated by the lack of a simple on-the-go guide to what's playing in cinemas. So we developed our own user-friendly application that‘s optimized for mobile users. Naviflix gives users quick access to film synopses, photos, video trailers and cinema showtimes, all from an iPhone.
The app reached number one in the UAE iTunes Store in its first week, making it something of a smash hit in the UAE community. We're now extending the interface to other platforms (Android, Blackberry and Nokia N-Series). It's an elegant and simple platform and in just a few weeks we’re going to let it loose overseas, to other markets in the GCC and beyond.
It’s the second app Flip has released into the market, we were one of the first Middle Eastern developers to create and release an app. The first is Mumbaikar - a guide to Mumbai.
2. I notice you have a new iPad. What do you like about it? Is there anything that doesn’t cut it for you?
It's an amazing device and it’s worth the hype. I think it’s the first genuine alternative to books and newspapers (and traditional computers). The screen is gorgeous, and the initial crop of applications from free content providers like BBC and NPR is great. I'm also spending a lot of time playing X-Plane and playing my touchscreen piano.
My main issue with the iPad is the lack of access to the legitimate content that's available in the US, like music and video in the iTunes Store and free episodes playing on ABC. An integrated video camera would also be nice.
3. What is Flip’s next big project?
We've always believed it's better to "show" our abilities than "tell" people about them, so we're investing heavily in the development of new applications (like Naviflix) and platforms across multiple devices to showcase what the web can do for advertisers and governments.
Right now, we’re focusing on creating new ways to develop brands across multiple platforms. Digital marketing is no longer just about having a website. The rise of multiple screens (mobile, interactive TV, kiosks, tablets) has made it much more challenging - and exciting - to reach audiences.
4. You’ve spoken about combining software development with social networking. Tell me more about that.
The social media revolution is having a profound influence on how Arab brands and governments interact with users and it’s essential that we make it easily to facilitate that conversation.
Users are growing increasingly demanding in terms of how and where they access content and Flip believes it's important to find the optimal interaction between culture, strategy, design and technology to build things that people want to use.
Too often, digital brand strategies in the region are mired in fruitless discussions about IT instead of focusing on the most important element: the end user.
5. If you weren’t running Flip, what would you be doing?
I grew up in a computer nerd's house (my dad worked for IBM for 20 years in the Middle East), so I've always been fascinated by technology and its impact on our lives. If I wasn't working at Flip, I'd be working with the nonprofit sector and using technology to improve people's lives.
There's so much that needs fixing in the region and I'm convinced that if the finest minds in the Middle East communications industry applied themselves to creating social justice and peace instead of just selling products, we could make real progress.
I'm hopeful that one day, I'll be able to apply everything I've learned to help address poverty and injustice in the Arab world.