Apple confident of more opportunities for student developers in Middle East

The iPhone maker aims to contribute to growth of start-ups and entrepreneurship, vice president Lisa Jackson says

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, centre, with Middle East developers in Dubai. Photo: Apple
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Apple is confident that its student developer programme will continue to hone more talent in the Middle East and contribute to the growth of start-ups and entrepreneurship, a senior executive at the company has said.

The iPhone maker is positioning its educational initiatives in places where developers will have a chance to closely interact with the Cupertino-based company, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, said during a media roundtable in Dubai.

“The vitality of the region in general and everything going on [within the developer community] is impressive,” Ms Jackson told The National on the sidelines of the roundtable held ahead of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference.

“We try to aim to give them opportunities to interact with us, and build their own business or opportunity … and make sure they have the same access to the App Store as these big companies do.”

Apple opened its first developer academy in Brazil in 2013, and the company now has more than a dozen of these institutions globally, according to its website.

The company opened its first developer academy in the Middle East and North Africa region in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in February 2022. The academy focuses on training female developers – another first for the region.

Apple does not provide region-specific figures for its academies, but globally, these institutions have helped students create more than 1,500 apps and establish more than 160 new companies, according to Apple.

The UAE is home to a culturally diverse society with more than 200 nationalities living and working in the Emirates, an advantage that Apple is leveraging as it is able to “get more ideas” on how to better address developers and their localisation of app requirements, said Ms Jackson, the former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration.

“One of the important things is that you can't be in the UAE and not realise that it’s the kind of place where so many people come together,” she said.

“We have students coming from very diverse backgrounds, and we see how critical thinking and challenge-based learning have changed their entire approach to their career, family and entrepreneurship.”

The global app market continues to grow, and app marketplaces have developed several initiatives to attract developers to help expand their digital offerings.

Apple began the app revolution when it launched App Store in 2008, and the number of third-party apps on the platform has grown significantly since then.

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From an initial 500, it has surged to more than 1.8 million, representing nearly 100 per cent of all apps, according to Apple.

While significantly below market leader Google Play in terms of the total number of apps – about 3.5 million, according to Statista – the App Store still leads in revenue as iPhone sales tend to be higher in countries with bigger incomes.

The iPhone maker does not specify how much the App Store makes in its financial reports, even though it is part of its strong services segment.

Apple said earlier this month that its services revenue grew 5.5 per cent to $20.9 billion in its second fiscal quarter, making it the company's biggest growth segment.

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We have students coming from very diverse backgrounds, and we see how critical thinking and challenge-based learning have changed their entire approach to their career, family and entrepreneurship
Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives

In January, Apple said about $920 billion has been paid to developers selling digital goods and services since the App Store's launch in 2008.

Smaller developers on the App Store, meanwhile, have grown their revenue by 71 per cent since 2020, outpacing their larger counterparts, a new study found earlier this month.

Aside from its academies, the company also has its Today at Apple programme, which organises educational and creative sessions conducted in Apple Stores. The UAE has four Apple stores, two each in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

“Hopefully we [developers] can play a part in making the UAE into a global hub for innovation,” said Sabrina Sales, a 14-year-old developer.

Sabrina, originally from the Philippines, is a two-time winner of the Worldwide Developer Conference’s student programme and is aiming for a third straight award at this year's event, which kicks off on June 5.

“I also hope to establish my own start-up in the future,” she told The National.

Updated: May 29, 2023, 6:23 AM