‘Don’t just build, learn how to sell’


Kurt Steck, General Manager for Audience and Platform Marketing, Microsoft. Photo - Imagine Cup
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With Team Thrizers representing Oman at the Imagine Cup, the Middle East region made its presence felt at the contest in St. Petersburg, Russia. For the participants too it was a learning experience of what global technology stage is all about. Times of Oman caught up with Microsoft's Kurt Steck who showed the way to Omani threesome.

How successful was Microsoft Imagine Cup this year?
We are very excited about what we were able to achieve at the Imagine Cup this year. We have increased our participation from around the world by 75 per cent this year, with 27,000 students on a global basis. We think that is a tremendous growth after 11 years... to think that we had that kind of continued growth. That is tribute to the fact that we continue to  expand. At Imagine Cup, we are not only focusing on world citizenship in gaming, but we expand to broader category of innovation that allows us to reach a broader set of students who want to bring their ideas by using technology.

Did you find any trend this year in what the students have in their mind?
Couple of trends that stick out to me: first and foremost has been the number of submissions and applications that are being developed. So they are taking advantage of mobile platform, PC platforms, car-based service platforms in the back end. We think that is an important development because it certainly follows the direction of our platform to be multi-device and allows us to continue building services and that is a significant development. We have seen that close to 40 of our applications this year are using a multiple-platform. So that is a great development.

The other big development we have seen is the diversity of hardware that we are seeing used here — the use of sensors, kinect technology, etc. The combinations of those two things stood out; multi-platform and diversity of hardware platform that are used is a greater development for us, for sure.

What is the trend — more in gaming or more in utility applications?
In terms of categories, we continue to see growth in all categories. Gaming continues to be a very, very strong category for us. Almost 90 per cent of the gaming submissions were for the PCs platform. That continues to show the strength of the PC platform.

What about participation from the Middle East students? Are you happy with it? What about their thought process? Was it competitive enough?
Yes. I think it was competitive. I think the submissions were very strong. I have read a lot about the submissions. So, based on what I have read, they have been very, very strong submissions. The thought process was really strong. One of the things I want to prove is the ability to represent their technology and solutions. We are trying to provide support in the speaking capability — how to present what they have done.

I would say that there is a lot of thinking that has gone in. The ideas are tremendous; that they represent their ideas has been important. The participants must remember that it is not enough to build something but also sell something. The combination of the two is important.

Regarding the Middle East, do you have a strategy that is chartered out at the moment?
We see growth across all the region. At the Imagine Cup, the growth we saw — of 75 per cent — came from all across. There was no one region that grew more than the others. They all grew at the same rate. We are very happy with the participation from the Middle East.

What should be the focus of someone from Middle East when they develop an app?
In the world of software, the beauty is that it transcends the borders. I would ask students to think about what is the global applicability of the solution that I am building, and not just at the local level. That is important because that is a common language that people can relate to. So, the solutions should be broad global skill.

What are the major challenges that the industry is facing — I mean the applications industry?
I think it is that there are multiple platforms to develop. The idea that the broad platform providers like Microsoft, Google and Apple have to embrace a world of standards and that, I think, is really important across the industry because I think it allows creativity not to be stifled to develop, because we are not actually there to push our platforms in
such a way.

Your advice to the students...
My advice to the students who participated in the Imagine Cup is, don't use this as a stopping point! This is just the launching pad for your ideas if you believe in your ideas and your capability to solve problems across the world. We are creating opportunities.

Understand that the Imagine Cup is used as a catalyst to generate ideas.

This is just a launching pad. Don't be afraid to take your ideas and continue to push them forward to create opportunity.

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