Photo by Anthony Mair
Wizard of Apps
If you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve probably come to rely on apps to help you navigate, make plans and entertain yourself. What you might not know is that, thanks to Aron Ezra, the venerable Las Vegas slot manufacturer Bally Technologies has become a powerhouse in the app-making world.
Ezra was CEO of Macroview Labs, a leading app designer based in San Francisco, before its acquisition by Bally last July transformed it into Bally Mobile. He’s now vice president of that division, overseeing app-building for a variety of clients nationwide, including MGM Resorts International. But Bally Mobile isn’t just about gambling. The tools for making great casino and hospitality apps can also be used in plenty of other fields, from education to medicine.
But Ezra’s main focus is to position the company for a future where gambling goes mobile. With more than half a million apps for the iPhone alone, Bally is betting that more and more visitors will be using their smartphones to help them decide where to eat and which shows to see. They’re also going to want to schedule wake-up calls, make reservations and share the details of their trip with their socially networked friends. At Macroview, Ezra proved that his team could produce apps that were not only easy for clients to use but increasingly valuable. Hence Bally’s no-strings-attached acquisition of Macroview—and Ezra.
He has been re-energized by his new surroundings. Having lived in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, the Princeton graduate has been charmed by the “fun vibe” in Las Vegas. “You can start up a conversation with anyone,” he says. “This is an enjoyable place to be.” He’s hoping Bally’s next generation of mobile apps can help tourists navigate Las Vegas as enjoyably as he can as a resident. That’s just one of the company’s new efforts. For the past year it has rolled out heavily used features such as passkey-protected content for convention groups, room-service ordering and full integration into player-loyalty programs. Design-wise, Ezra predicts that apps will make better use of mobile devices’ accelerometers (the part that lets the position of the device affect what’s onscreen) and cameras, giving users an even more interactive experience.
In 2011, the total number of apps downloaded more than doubled. With even more explosive growth expected in 2012, Ezra’s leading a company that started out making pinball machines in the 1930s into the mobile future.