The Blackberry Playbook is expected to launch in India on the 23rd of June, and Zero Sum has launched its comics application Comix-on-the-go for the device. Zero Sum has content deals with the likes of IDW, Amar Chitra Katha, Level 10 Comics, Vimanika Comics and Penguin Comics; Zero Sum Wireless COO and VP Sales Depinder Singh informs MediaNama that the company has also inked a worldwide deal with Archies Comics for digital last week.
Singh says that, so far they’ve primarily had Indian content, and Amar Chitra Katha, Ganesha and Akbar Birbal tend to work well for them, but now they’re getting into international titles. “We’ve had Disney and Cartoon Network comics as well, but I think the target audience that uses the mobile for comics is a lot more mature.” Interestingly, the company has decided to change its focus to devices and OEMs, from Telecom Operators.
OEM’s Become Aggressive In India
Zero Sum has deployments with Vodafone and claims it is doing well with Docomo, and a few launches there in the pipeline, but over the last year, Singh says, “we’ve seen a lot of OEMs becoming aggressive in the Indian market, when it comes to reading material. Most of the handsets now come with preinstalled applications for newspapers and magazines. We’ve got a lot of inquiries from OEMs, and this promted us to change our focus.”
“One of the easier things is that, with carriers, the handset compatibility becomes an issue – maintaining and updating the handset database. OEM’s have a set pattern of handsets, and they know what they’re planning. Our first tie up was with LG, just before the World Cup, and in January, and we launched for Android and Java handsets. Blackberry was the second, and we were close to getting preinstalled, but the deal took time. We’re a preferred partner for the Playbook. We are in discussions with OEMs for India and world markets.”
But what does the company make of Apple’s subscription policy changes? “Hat’s off to what they’ve done otherwise, but I’m quite happy that they changed. The monopolistic approach doesn’t work every time, and Apple will have to come up with more vendor friendly schemes.”
The Playbook App: Dealing With No In-App Purchase Yet
Some of the content on Comix On The Go is free, and Zero Sum has typically relied on the in-app purchase model for comics. The application allows it, but because the Blackberry Playbook doesn’t have in-app purchase yet (it is expected in August, according to Singh), Zero Sum is offering packs of comics to customers. “You download the application, and it is free. There are a few free comics, and there are banners which prompt you to purchase packs of 5 comics, for which you download another application. Once Blackberry enables In-App purchase, the applications will be upgraded over the air,” according to Singh.
The company plans to keep multiple apps for comic packs, because it brings users into the fold. And there is incentive, because “if he (the customer) purchases 1 comic, it is $1, but a pack of 5 will be $3”. But how does it work with content providers and free comics? “Most of the content providers understand that there will be free content, and we have the billing in our CMS, for free and billed content.”
Note that the Blackberry App store doesn’t have telecom operator billing in India, like many most other app stores.
Note: We’ll review the app on AppNama, in case we get to try it out for ourselves. So far, we’re open to trying out Apple, Android and Symbian apps, since we have the devices.