Kim Dotcom out on the town - and supporting Auckland company's launch as world's first 100% Windows app agency
His entry into New Zealand public life continued last night, with the giant German turning up at two events - making me wonder if he's going to become the most omnipresent celebrity-defendant-around-town since Ahmed Zaoui.
One was the final taping of Media 7 at TVNZ (the show is off to TV3), the other the launch of Marker Metro - an Auckland company that bills itself as the world's first agency devoted 100% to Windows apps ("Metro" is the tile interface familiar to Windows Phone users - it will also be the central feature of the coming Windows 8. "Marker" is the full-service, multiplatform agency from which Marker Metro was hewn).
Mr Dotcom was accompanied by his wife Mona and co-accused Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk, but no visible security.
Before the Media 7 taping, I had the chance to ask Kim a quick question: assuming he won his extradition hearing, and could choose where to live, would he stay in New Zealand? (Kim's native Germany forbids extradition of its citizens to any country, making it an attractive option to someone in US authorities' gun).
"It's too early to say," he replied.
He added he was getting a much friendlier reception from New Zealanders than a few months ago (when his public profile was dominated by a spat with neighbours).
After Media 7 taping wrapped up, Mr Dotcom headed down to the Viaduct to join the launch party for Marker Metro - whose staff includes one Ben Gracewood, last seen in the Dotcom Mansion pool (along with Media7's José Barbosa). You could say Mr Dotcom is on a charm offensive (his extradition hearing begins August 6), but it's nothing professionally orchestrated, or even particularly plotted. Ben asked José invited Kim to their respective events, and he just turned up.
Also at the Marker Metro launch was Microsoft NZ development advisor Nigel Parker - less of a celebrity but ultimately a more key person in Marker Metro's story.
Most publishers, sites and advertisers - and others looking to get an app made - will look at the tiny installed base of Windows Phone devices and turn up their nose (assuming they think about the platform at all amid the iPhone and Android hype).
Here, Mr Parker and Microsofties around the world can help. The cash-rich company has a little sugar to sprinkle around to encourage app development (which is good, but there's still scope for Microsoft to become a lot more aggressive in this area).
Marker Metro COO Jon Beattie told NBR he expects things to really pick up toward the end of the year as Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and Microsoft's Surface tablets are released (one version of the Surface runs Windows RT, the other Windows 8). The smart money says around October.
Windows 8 shares a lot of code across its smartphone, tablet and desktop versions, which will make it easy for the likes of Marker Metro to create an app that (with only a little tweaking) can run across all species of Windows 8 hardware - something that should help developers capitalise on Windows' PC dominance to help juice mobile apps.
Earlier, Vodafone NZ CEO Russell Stanners told NBR he expects the close relationship between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 to create a large pool of common apps, helping Windows Phone to gain traction.
To wit, MarkerMetro is working on Windows 8 desktop and tablet apps for the NZ Herald (which I understand is an Auckland-based newspaper), Trade Me and 7Digital. It's previously produced Windows Phone 7 apps for Yellow, Air New Zealand and others.
The world is your oyster with apps. Accordingly, Marker Metro will be looking for offshore business as well as domestic, and encouraging New Zealand companies get their apps onto the Windows Store (still in beta) to tap global markets. And, afterall, while Windows Phone's installed base is modest, you can reasonably expect that tens of millions will upgrade to Windows 8 during the new OS's first year on the market.
“This is a huge opportunity, so we’ve just gone for it,” says Marker Metro CEO Keith Patton.
“Microsoft Windows powers the lion’s share of consumer PCs around the world today. It’s natural that millions of users will soon upgrade to Windows 8, either through a software upgrade or on new PCs and tablets like the Surface device just announced.”