For a long time I’ve been interacting with Kieran Gutteridge on Twitter. He’s one of those independent mobile developers that the large mobile operators, manufacturers and platforms are chasing obsessively, quite simply, because if you can win him over, your platform might stand a chance. It’s all very well paying millions to a game developer to encourage them to develop for your platform, but as industry leaders have started screaming from the rafters recently, “It’s all about the ecosystem!” By that, they mean they actually need independent companies to invest the time and resources in their platform.
Kieran, as co-founder and CTO of Intohand might just be the archetypal chap a lot of these developer outreach programmes are designed to target.
Kieran has been working with mobile platforms for donkeys years — and, I think it’s fair to say, has spent many a frustrated hour dealing with signing and certificating issues — the challenges you really had to get right back in the day with the world was Java and Symbian-based. Recently, Intohand has developed services for the likes of Disney, Chelsea Football Club, Jeego and Bath Rugby Club.
As always with the Mobile Developer Titan profiles here on Mobile Industry Review, sincere thanks to the team at Telefonica’s BlueVia for helping support the series and make it possible.
Right then, over to Kieran. My questions are in bold.
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1. Who are you and what’s your background?
Kieran Gutteridge – I have been involved with mobile since the early days of Java Mobile. I started off making games for very limited resolution devices!
2. What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
CTO and co-Founder. Attempting to predict trends and find the easiest way for the team here (who are all smarter than myself) to produce great software in a timely manner.
3. When did your organisation begin trading?
4. Why did you/your founder(s) start the company? To solve what prob-lems?
We had a Nokia N80 delivered – it had a “retina” display and WiFi… The three of us believed that publishing content via apps and web to mobile would eventually become mainstream and make it easier for “brands to go mobile”.
We believe there will be always be some form of “fragmentation problem” be it software platform, hardware devices, app stores, browser differences, marketing difficulties or something else. Our mission is to make publishing to the small screen easy for content and brand owners, without all the normal complexity that surrounds tele-coms and software development in general.
5. How are you funded?
Self-funded by owner managers.
6. How do you generate revenue? Who are your customers? Or do you sell directly via App Stores?
Through application development for digital agencies, brand owners, small businesses and more.
7. Who are your principal directors/team members? Could you give us a few sentences about each of their responsibilities and backgrounds?
Kieran Gutteridge – Tech: Directs the technical strategy, oversees all development, drives the team.
Stuart Scott – Commercial: Looks after the operation, engagements, overall business strategy.
Kieran Kelly – Creative: Responsible for web and mobile look, feel, usability and user satisfaction.
8. Could you give us some key turning points or memorable moments from your perspective regarding the development of the mobile marketplace?
- The Sony K700: finally a developer friendly device that was similar to the Sun reference emulator, with great documentation. We hope Sony Ericsson can assist like this with Android, the way they assisted us back then with Java Mobile.
- The Nokia N80: having wifi and inspiring us that mobile web and apps would have a mainstream audience.
- The iPhone, making “mobile” a reality and for providing a global means of distribution that included payment – finally a viable method to address an audience beyond a single carrier in a single country.
9. Can you remember back to some of the first applications that caught your attention? What were they? How do you remember responding to them?
- King Kong by Gameloft. Proving what could be achieved even with a lim-ited device, it inspired the team I worked with to write our own anima-tion system, for Dilbert Cubicle chase and other games.
- Mozzies on the Siemens SX1. Using the camera in AR to extend a simple game and make it fun.
- TubeDeluxe on the iPhone. I had walked around for quite a while with a simple, scrollable gif of the tube map that I wrote for my Sony K800… Seeing that people would actually pay and use apps as simple as this really inspired. Then seeing how much further you can take a seemingly simple tubemap and put the love, care and attention to detail that Malcom Barclay has put in, is an inspiration to every software developer.
10. What was your first application launch? How was the development process? What was the biggest learning experience you derived from your first application build?
I ported “Shark Tale” to 35 devices and that just showed how diverse the mobile ecosystem was back then (2004) and how difficult it was for the artist at the time to produce art for screens that ranged from 96×65 all the way up to 240×320. For us as software developers to try and realise the original concept in a limited medium was the biggest overall challenge.
11. At what point did you think ‘this mobile thing has legs’? Did you know from the inception of the business? Or did it take a little while before you felt confident with the marketplace?
It does?! I have always believed but certainly since the launch of iPhone and Android, life for developers and those involved in producing content for small screen devices has got a lot more pleasant – and the opportunities are far far greater.
12. Do you ever work directly with mobile operators?
13. What current or existing mobile operator capabilities would you like to see made accessible to app developers?
Identity provider: I would trust a UK regulated company to be my identity provider before I trusted certain startups that may not be around in a few years… Or worse still, who may be in juristiction that do not have as strong data protection and privacy laws.
14. What application platforms are you focusing your efforts upon? And why?
Android and iOS, native development has become fun again once we lost the legacy. Just in terms of trying out an idea we achieve about a 4-6 fold increase in productivity on the new platforms – and that is without removing the headache of signing and certification that used to come with other platforms.
15. Over the next few years, where do you think your focus will lie?
Android, iOS and hybrid web applications. Whilst I believe HTML 5 has a place and great web apps will offer a superb experience, I feel the industry is searching for a silver bullet for cross platform development – much like we did with J2ME – rather than playing to a particular plat-form’s strengths.
16. What innovations are you most looking forward to in the mobile marketplace?
Every time I am asked this question I say NFC and gestures – so at the risk of sounding like a stuck record I will repeat!
17. What handset(s) do you use currently? What’s your primary mobile network of choice and why?
iPhone 4 on Vodafone and a HTC Nexus One on O2, Personally the networks for me provide much of a similar service. Subjectively Vodafone’s data network feels better in Bath and London, but all the operators do a relatively great job of providing the basics (as someone who has roamed on AT&T in the US, I can never see where the complaints everyone makes come from though, as I thought it was a brilliant level of service, so perhaps I am an easy to please customer!!)
18. Can you remember your first handset and network?
An analogue Nokia on BT Cellnet.
19. Could you highlight 3 mobile applications (and/or developers) that you seriously admire and explain why?
- Tapbots for the extremes they goto with customizing UI for simple apps is simply amazing.
- Simon Maddox for distilling application ideas down quickly and always being someone who is willing to bounce ideas and help anyone.
- Any mobile developer who has got their hands dirty and is willing to share their experience and pains, we all have a lot to learn and the op-portunities before us are vast.
20. And now let’s talk BlueVia: Have you had a play with the API? What did you come up with?
Yes, aside from silly proof of concepts such as a chat bot, we have implemented a great idea to push location updates to Google latitude so that you could save your battery, available in beta form at locateupdate.co.uk.
21. What features of BlueVia are you most excited by?
Simple self service APIs: The simple fact of not having to go through 3-6 months of Biz dev to gain access and prove/test a concept. Means we have an inclination to offer customers of a particular niche a greater ex-perience that cannot be simply offered by a platform provider, who by necessity is more generic.
22. How do you react to the revenue possibilities presented by BlueVia?
Its a great initiative and hopefully others will take the lead and open up to developers. If it’s proven developers can help drive up volumes and use of network services, that I believe should have been self-service many years ago, when the phones were incapable of doing client side, as a reference point here Apple have sent 100 billion push notifications…
23. What’s missing from the BlueVia offering at the moment? What would you like to see?
Billing of data loads: the ability for a network to tell us developers when it would be cheap and efficient for us to send a user their data (though I believe with geo-fenced location, like is coming in iOS and Android we will be able to manage this with a user’s home WiFi shortly).
24. Would you like to see more operators adopt a more open framework similar to Telefonica and BlueVia?
Yes – I have always hoped initiatives such as OMTP, Bondi, WAC would deliver the oasis of a single api for developers to integrate and tap into a network’s capabilities. However now I will trust the West Coast to bring us these abilities such as Location, in app payment, global distribution, and more.
25. Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years of mobile application development?
- Designing for mobile/small screens first – before the web.
- Gestures becoming more and more important.
- Data contention in peak hours and means to address this, client and network side.
- App and services discoverability. This is soon to become a weakness on the small screen.
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Thank you for taking the time Kieran — and kudos, much kudos, for the really smart implementation using the BlueVia API. I recommend all readers with a Telefonica/o2 SIM to give Kieran’s beta service a try out — it’s at www.locateupdate.co.uk.