From Domino’s To Compuware, Michigan Sees Its Future In Mobile Technology

7/20/11

Like pineapple and pepperoni, Domino’s Pizza and Apple seem an unlikely pairing. But the Ann Arbor, MI-based company has openly embraced the consumer electronics giant to push sales of pizza, salads, and bread sticks.

Last month, Domino’s released an iPhone app that allows consumers to order products over the Internet through their mobile device. Though the company – which has 9,169 stores around the world – has offered online ordering application since 2006, this is Domino’s first foray into the fast growing universe of smartphone software.

Jeff McCrumb, Domino’s manager of mobile development, said sales through the Domino’s app is already beating out competitors like Pizza Hut. Domino’s iPhone app has a four star rating in the Apple App Store and a steady amount of downloads each day, he said.

The company is exploring apps with other popular mobile devices like Androids and tablets.

“Our goal really is, as a pizza company, to provide a conduit for the consumers to get pizzas ordered,” McCrumb recently told a gathering at Mobile Monday Michigan.

Domino’s is the latest example of how Michigan companies are increasingly embracing mobile technologies, whether it’s traditional businesses reaching out to consumers or high tech software firms developing new apps. Mobiata, an Ann Arbor-based startup recently acquired by Expedia, is developing hotel reservation apps for the travel website. The Big Three automakers, especially Ford Motor in Dearborn, MI, are developing mobile apps for their in-car computer systems.

For large companies like Domino’s, a mobile application is “an extension of an existing product.” says Keith Bourne, co-founder of Mobile Monday Michigan. Conversely, for a small startup, “basically the app is the company.”

“But I think in the long run, everyone’s going to mobile now,” Bourne says, “so everyone’s going to have to figure out how to incorporate it into what they do and how it can enhance the service that they offer.”

Recognizing the potential for a mobile technology industry in Michigan, Linda Daichendt, the other co-founder of Mobile Monday Michigan, established the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) last September. The organization, which now boasts 60 members, is the country’s first statewide trade association for the mobile industry.

MTAM’s mission is to grow local mobile technology companies and explore new ways of incorporating mobile technology into Michigan’s businesses, Daichendt says.

Daichendt says a lack of communication between developers, carriers, and retailers means Michigan’s mobile industry wouldn’t reach its full potential.

“I could tell that was going to prevent the industry from growing the way it really has an opportunity to grow in Michigan,” Daichendt said. “And so, we decided to try to bring all of those sectors together, get them talking together, get them working on things together to try and really get the industry to grow rapidly in Michigan so that it could create jobs.”

According to study by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), one new mobile tech job creates 3.9 jobs in other industries. The average annual income for the 47,313 people working in the mobile tech is $63,000, the report says. MTAM estimates 9,250 more mobile tech jobs will be created in the state over the next four years.

Detroit-based Compuware is likely to generate many of those new jobs. The company has worked on mobile technology with businesses ranging from banking and automobiles to advertising. Compuware is now exploring Google-made Android technology and applications for tablets like the iPad, says executive vice president and chief technology officer Paul Czarnik.

Czarnik, a MTAM board member, described how tablets are leading the way for upcoming mobile technology, as the device provides “a different perspective of the data you’re using” simply by rotating it.

“All that new kind of functionality with the human interface provides new ways to present information, to write applications that are different,” Czarnik said, “and that’s the most exciting thing.”

Nicole Aber is a contributing writer for Xconomy. Follow @

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