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App-Makers Seek K Street Assistance

It took Calgary Scientific Inc. only two months to win Canadian government approval for a new mobile application that allows doctors to analyze MRIs and other complex medical images on an iPad from anywhere in the world.

But when the same product came up for a review in the U.S., regulators focused on the obstacles to viewing such images on a mobile screen. Two years passed before the company got the green light.

Such experiences are persuading Calgary Scientific and other mostly small app developers to turn to K Street for help with product reviews, as well as debates over spectrum allocation, privacy legislation and electronic payments.

Well-established technology trade groups have long handled such work. But with revenue from smartphone and tablet apps expected to reach $38 billion by 2015, according to Forrester Research, mobile-app-makers are increasingly convinced they need a cadre of lobbyists fully devoted to their fast-growing market.

“It’s actually kind of scary [to see] some of the policies that are being pushed in Washington,” said Ahmed Siddiqui, the founder of Go Go Mongo, a nutrition-
focused app for preschoolers that has been downloaded more than 35,000 times since hitting the market just more than a year ago. “We need people that understand apps lobbying for us.”

Backing the app-makers are venture capitalists and operators of platforms on which the apps operate, including Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. Microsoft pumped at least $1 million last year into the Association for Competitive Technology, an app-focused trade association.

The introduction of Apple’s iPhone in 2007 has led to nearly 500,000 app-
related jobs in the U.S., according to a recent study by TechNet. The industry is pushing app-friendly policies that could spur further growth through ACT and the Application Developers Alliance, a 3-month-old trade association run by longtime technology industry lobbyist Jon Potter and backed by Google.

“We needed an association which primarily represents the mom-and-pop developers and the platforms who are competing for their time and attention,” said Tim Sparapani, a privacy expert who helped Facebook develop one of the Internet industry’s most robust Washington, D.C., presences. Sparapani joined the ADA as its top lobbyist last week, just days after the organization brought on seven lobbyists from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

TechNet, one of several established technology trade groups in Washington, D.C., doesn’t view the activity as a threat.

“There is a huge demand for education of policymakers,” said John Horrigan, vice president for policy research at the organization. “It’s not so much competition from our perspective but more a natural outgrowth of evolving industry.”

ACT was founded by Mike Sax, who developed a landscape keyboard iPhone app that Apple later made standard. The group is flying about 40 application developers to Washington in May for meetings with lawmakers and federal agency officials.

The lobbying trip will be the second for Siddiqui. With a web of privacy proposals in the works on Capitol Hill, he is concerned that lawmakers trying to protect users will inadvertently prohibit companies like his from collecting data necessary to understand how consumers are using the app.

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