Maktoob Develops a Startpage, Social Network and a Portal for Saudi Telecom (ST)
M3com is fully in Arabic and has a custom startpage, a social network called As7ab ( friends), and a bunch of other channels: News, Islam, sports, Saudi succor, yellow pages, photo sharing, video sharing, forums, Q&A, messaging, travel and tourism, education, jocks, and Saudi stock market.
The startpage (Arabic link) is one of the most advanced Arabic startpage available in the market today. Where the user can chose a bunch of readymade content like: M3com channels and other tools such as: Gmail, flicker, youtube, facebook, tasks, and weather. Plus the ability to customize the page look and feel with colors and from Islamic and other types of photos including a photo for the current Saudi King. The user can also add any content that has an RSS feed, and arrange them with drag and drop. Similar to Netvibes but you cannot have more than one page.
The startpage was available on alpha version on http://afaqi.m3com.com.sa, It took Maktoob team around 2 to 3 weeks to develop the alpha version.
As7ab (Arabic link) the Social network has profiles, groups, photos and videos sharing, and networks; its look and feel is very similar to Maktoob’s own social network “As7ab.”
I personally liked the travel channel (Arabic link) which is a mix of admin and user generate content of: Travel stories, videos, photos, and counties information. I also liked the cool localized avatars the site offers.
Most of the content in all M3com channels are user generated, and is open to the public, but some features such as messaging: SMS and MMS (soon), and education are only open to ST’s DSL subsidiary Afaqi’s subscribers.
M3com is in beta mood now, which explains the many links not working messages I got while testing the site.
This move by ST is similar to partnerships US based ISPs had with leading portals, but implemented in different approaches. With m3com launch, STs is attempting to build a longer relationship with it subscribers’ base, and to lure others to join, plus it would open a new revenue opportunity from selling ads on the network. Specially that m3com will be the starting point for its Afaqi ADSL customers which Ajabni ( Arabic link) estimated it to be around 1 million by the end of this year.
Ajabni ( Arabic link) also reported that the whole portal was developed in one year at the costs of 20 million Saudi Riyals (SAR) around 5,332,764.5051 USD (1 USD = 3.7504 SAR). Which is an excellent revenue for Maktoob group, considering a profit margin I estimate of around 95%. But this portal clashes with its current portal maktoob.com since all M3com offerings are identical to part of what Maktoob.com has, but I guess they do not care as long they get 5,300.000 million plus USD in development fees!
Maktoob is also working with other regional telecom operators to develop similar portals and online services.
Update: Samih Toukan the CEO of Maktoob, told AC that M3com contract fees of 5 million USD plus paid by ST, are not accurate. He declined to disclose the right number.
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