PETALING JAYA - Turning 17 means birthday parties, celebrations and other treats for most teens, but for Syed Muhammad Syed Abdullah, it is app-time.
On his 17th birthday last week, Syed Muhammad, or Habib Al-Attas as he is known among friends, launched his latest mobile application, Internet Salad, a one-stop app for users to access all the different social media networks at the same time.
Internet Salad is the 19th app Habib has developed over the last few years, a feat that has earned him a "Steve Jobs Malaysia" nickname from the Malay press.
"Currently, you cannot surf the Internet, check your e-mail or watch YouTube while using Facebook and Twitter at the same time on your smartphone. It is very bothersome so Internet Salad aims to provide a single platform for the different apps so that you can do multiple things at one time," he said.
Derived from a salad bowl concept where you have different ingredients mixed together, Internet Salad is an improvement from Habib's very first app, Surfing Fast, which he developed when he was 15.
"However, back then my age was an issue because Apple Inc does not allow children under the age of 18 to develop and sell iOS apps on the App Store. So Apple shut it down. Now I am doing it under my mother's legal guardianship," he said.
He hopes Internet Salad can do as well as his previous mobile app game Crazy Ball, a simple obstacle-based "shoot the ball into the basket" game which got some 30,000 downloads and caught the attention of users in some 30 countries after it was launched early this year.
"I am interested in developing apps because I want to create different experiences for smartphone users while solving their problems with their phones, especially iPhone users," said Habib.
Another app that Habib developed a few months ago is Harimau Malaya, which he hopes will change the way football fans watch matches and support their teams at the stadium.
"The Harimau Malaya for iPhone is an app that every spectator in the stadium must have to cheer on their team. Instead of waving conventional flags and banners they can wave this app, which will flash out the colours of your team (in this case Harimau Malaya) while singing and cheering. This app even has a tiger-growling sound!" he said, adding that he hopes it can be adopted by other teams and sports and feature their colours, logo, mascot and songs.
Other than designing and developing apps, the Form Five student is also a keen sportsman and martial arts exponent, participating in regional ice-hockey, boxing and Muay Thai tournaments.
Now, however, Habib is taking a break from both sports and app development to focus on his SPM exams.
"But I am still checking on Internet Salad daily and exploring ways to market it better. One thing I hope to pursue later (after exams) is to collaborate with local telcos to enhance young people's access to apps. Currently, many have no access to certain apps as they are dependent on their parents' credit card."
Habib also cannot wait to finish his exams as he has ideas for various other apps to be developed.
But is the tag "Steve Jobs Malaysia" a burden on him?
Habib only laughed: "It is an honour and I feel the responsibility of meeting the expectations, but I hope that I can soon be known for myself - Habib Al Attas."