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going global

Blackberry Storm with the Poynt app on display.

Calgary-based Poynt is focusing its efforts on India and China after established itself as a popular and handy app for millions of mobile users in North America, Europe and Australia.

The multiple-platform local search app uses a device's GPS to direct users to nearby businesses, bars, gas stations and restaurants. The company recently launched a new feature for Canadians that allows price comparisons at local gas stations.

With 14.5 million users, Poynt has come a long way since its launch in 2002, when mobile devices couldn't keep up with ideas from developers. "Phones were way too dumb back then," says CEO Andrew Osis. "The idea was to put the Yellow Pages in your phone so you could find what you needed, when you needed it, where you needed it."

Poynt operates in Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and now India. The plan is to launch in China later this year.

"They've got a couple of people," Mr. Osis says, when asked about the company's reasons for entering the Chinese market. "It's the largest cellphone market in the world, is really the short answer. ... Certainly that market is going to be hotly contested in the future – it's expecting to have 230 million to 250 million smartphones by the end of 2012 – and that's a significant user base, no matter how you slice it."

The Poynt app in China will represent a slightly different strategy for the company, which typically focuses on advertising as its source of revenue in other markets. "We (usually) try to deliver a highly relevant experience that you're looking for, and some kind of ad that provokes a relevant message," he explains.

"China will be more along the lines of subscription or transaction fees or usage fees, just because of the differences of that marketplace. (Fees are) a more accepted kind of thing and certainly the product is going to look a little different there than it does here."

While Poynt competes against several apps that have similar functionality, especially on Apple's crowded App Store, Mr. Osis says few others have the functionality his app offers all in one place. He's also hoping some recent deals with handset manufacturers will push Poynt's user count much higher.

In December, Poynt announced that it had signed a deal with Samsung to have its app preloaded on phones and tablets, including the popular Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab 10.1. A similar deal was struck with Nokia for India.

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