Collin Gillis the director research of BGC Financial interviewed Jason Braverman, CEO of Blue Planet Apps, Inc.
Blue Planet Apps, Inc. is company that builds applications for mobile platforms. Among them there are roboPrint a printing app that allows users to print via 3G, Wi-Fi to any connected printer in any place of the world, BioLock the first true Bio-Metric security application for Android that uses three methods to lock down your data Facial recognition, PIN and the Iris Scan; dTor the most advanced torrent client available for the Android platform and so on.
This article is a short brief of the radio show that Collin Gillis and Jason Braverman have several days ago. I hope my interpretation of the radio show gives you chance to read on paper all those talks when you are in airport, home or hotel room.
As Collin Gillis said Blue Planet Apps is on the peak of the smartphone revolution. They started about three years ago working with BlackBerry platform. According to Jason Braverman it is a very good platform with strong security sector.
But soon after Android OS appeared Blue Planet Apps decided to build for this OS. Today when we see real achievements of Google platform it is rather natural. But at the beginning there was Google reputation of a very successful company that made developers to believe in their project and to invest in Android platform two years ago (though to be honest a lot of things that Google did failed but on the whole they where success). Besides what Google presented was an open source product. As developers Google made it ridiculously easy to build an application and to distribute it to the consumers. In reality a developer can build an application in 15 minutes and sell it in 15 minutes.
The platform itself is very good for a first generation platform. But still there are some problems and one of the most important of hem is fragmentation, for it is still complicated for the developer to make applications for a wide variety of handsets being produced. There are very many devices made by different manufactures, with different screen sizes, different cameras and different formats and each manufacture has their own code that they change to make their product unique from everyone else. There are no problems of this kind in case with Blackberry or iPhone which are sole to themselves.
Jason Braverman says that Google is about to overcome a major problem with fragmentation across different platforms and operating systems. The real value of the platform is not only in the fact that a developer can built something in 15 minutes but that it can work at a lot of phones. The most basic is that an Android application is not too complicated so it can work at every phone and it is a great thing about Google. A developer can built a basic application, integrate it with database, financial data or website and present that to a client and to every Android phone and it is possible to do that very, very quickly. You can’t do that on Apple, you can’t do that on RIM, you can’t even do that on Microsoft products because Microsoft is a sort of semi close product.
Jason Braverman agrees that fragmentation is a pretty significant problem of Android OS, especially it was a problem earlier when there are 1.5, 1.6 versions of the platform and then 2.0 and Froyo variant came out. So we had wide ratio of the population using different versions of the OS. We had 20% on 1.5, 25% on 1.6, approximately 15% on 2.0, so it was very hard to support all this different platforms. But now situation has changed. As soon as a new edition of the platform is released people migrate to this new platform. And today more than 70% are running 2.1 and as Blue Planet Apps CEO predicts within a couple of month clients will migrate at a new platform and every new phone produced will be based on a new platform. Moreover there are rumors about release of new Gingerbred 2.3 within the next month.
An outstanding feature of Android is a very easy procedure of updating. Within two days you can have hundred of thousand people updated to the latest release of a the platform. So again talking about fragmentation we can say that today existence of multiple handsets, multiple versions of the OS is not a big deal. There was a time when Android was in infancy and was coming out and was not mature and the development platform itself had some work that needed to be done. But Google is the company that did a fantastic job providing a code for the platform for the developers and the consumers. That is going to be the gold standard for the smartphones of the future, believes Jason Braverman. One can make an argument that iPhone OS is better and excellent technology are put into it iPhone, but from a developer point we are still looking at product that is hard to develop for because of a company closed policy, peculiarities of source code and library limitations, that are presented with the platform.
Jason Braverman calls himself a big fan of iPhone product. He thinks that it is excellently engineered, extremely well-made product and Apple is known for extremely good hardware. But the business practice of keeping things so tight coming from 30 years of fighting against Microsoft in world of computers does not justify itself anymore. As the developer consider there is no successful global strategy going to follow in the future smartphone market. Collin Gillis reminded that he knows his guest said the same thing about Research in Motion (RIM) that had similar way of conducting themselves in business. As for Research in Motion there were a fantastic move and the great thing RIM did is acquiring QNX Software Systems because QNX is a great real time up ready system and it contributed tremendously to PlayBook. But what they should have done with the PlayBook is to open it up so that it connect not just BlackBerry but it should be made of Window app and Android app and potentially an iPhone app which Apple would never allow, that was an Apple problem. That could help users to interchange data between a PlayBook and those platforms. And it is especially urgent when RIM doesn’t have a smartphone to compete today on a market. They eliminated themselves and the existing BlackBerry audience. That is why they are loosing their market share to Google and Apple.
There are also a lot of rumors over the internet about Android tablets. Though it is yet to know what Google is really planning and it is yet to be seen how the tablets are really going to play with Android. Nowadays we are looking at a very interesting convergence of PC market and a smartphone market. It is quite possible that in three or five years we will see real disappearance of the desktop PC as we know it. And moreover laptops, notebooks, tablets are going to be converged. So there probably will be very light tablets with wireless keyboards that can be mobilized and even used as a phone. It is going to be an eight to ten inch tablet that people will work around with, supposes Mr. Braverman, just as well as he can work around with eight inch tablet using it as his primary source of communication. Nowadays tablets are going to be a bridge between a smartphone and a desktop. Desktop PC is becoming less and less useful. The developer adds that he can do without a desktop computer for a week operating an Android phone and does not have any problems at all.
As Collin Gillis said Cisco Android based tablet with regular Cisco screen and ability to support video communication is going to be an example of this tendency that can be called a revolution and be compared to Internet revolution of 1996 when Internet appeared. Just the same changes are happening in the mobile sector now and it is possible to say that they are happening even faster than it was in 1996.
Collin Gillis and Jason Braverman also discussed the ways developers earn money. “Actually there are two of them: to produce ads based applications and to sell apps without advertisement.” Jason Braverman who had long history of development for mobile platforms said that “the most expensive market is RIM, then there is Apple coming next and Android being the cheapest market. On one of the major blog devoted to the Android OS there was a discussion of what users prefer paid applications or applications with ads. And the voting demonstrated that there were about 50 % of users that would prefer to pay for the product without advertisement and 50 % of users that would choose ads based apps. The problem is with ads based applications – It is hard for the developers to earn money when they don’t know how wide the audience of the application is going to be. For a game developer like Rovio making programs like Angry Birds and for those who don’t know how popular their application is going to be, certainly ads is a good way to earn money. But if a developer is making applications like roboPrint that have a specific audience, mostly business professionals looking to print wherever they are advertisement may become very bothering. So it doesn’t work in this case, in case of apps intended for enterprise sector and business sector. Besides there are trial versions of paid apps, for example roboPrint that gives you a 15 days trial to estimate the product and to take a decision whether to buy it or not. All its features are totally unrestricted and after this trial period has expired a user may buy an application at Android market as well.”
Talking about Android market Collin Gillis noted that “some people afraid that third party apps for Android may be malicious and asked to describe the actual mechanism for submission application. “ As his conversation partner explained “the procedure is very simple. There is a developer council and there is a process when Google verify the applications if they violate Google policy. So certain applications are pulled off the market most recently. For example such applications that allow you to spy on another user by installing an application on his phone and then to be able to get his messages.”
“It should be noted that Android platform, the way it operates, the way the applications are running does not allow any malicious application to course any real damage to the whole phone itself that you would have on Windows. So at the moment we don’t have to worry about viruses too much, however you must take care of security of your phone. There are firewall programs and other applications that are able to detect malicious apps and remove them as they are detected.”
Talking about other mobile platforms and Windows Phone 7 edition in particular Jason Braverman admitted that he is very eager to develop for Windows Phone 7 and he likes this product and wish to succeed in building for it.
Blue Planet Apps have an idea of putting their unique app BioLock Biometric Security on Windows Phone 7, but they had some resistance. There is just no access to phone hardware. It is impossible to get a phone, an actual device to develop for it. Blue Planet Apps can develop only for early emulator SDK that Microsoft handed everybody which is quite functional and is using some features of WP7 but still it is impossible to develop something like BioLock using emulator. One can’t do much with an emulator though some of them are very strong. You really need a hardware device. Microsoft did some hardware available for developers of Windows Mobile 6 and Windows Mobile 6.5 but there is very limited hardware that was available. You would think that with billion dollars they are spending for marketing they would prepare phones for the developers of apps. Especially people like me, Jason Braverman says, who was going to pay any amount of money to get a phone.
Then Collin Gillis asked Jason Braverman about his opinion of one more popular mobile platform Symbian and he said that it looks like European smartphone sector is in collapse. Let’s take for example Nokia one of the largest cellphone manufacturers of the planet, a company that is known as a producer of best quality equipment. The fact that during almost three years Nokia did not made a product to compete with Android is just unbelievable. Can we say that Symbian is really dated? Well, Symbian is a good operating system but it needs a major reconstruction to compete with what is available and what is coming in the market today. They should concentrate on this for coming six months otherwise they are going to lose their position.
Collin Gillis asked Jason Braverman to comment on Steve Jobs criticizing Android saying that fragmentation is a great problem of this OS and inquired if it is really an obstacle for him to develop for handsets with different screen size, different cameras and other characteristics.
As Blue Planet Apps chief believes Steve Jobs is a giant of computer industry and history, but he thinks that Jobs is greatly mistaken or just saying what he is saying to promote his company’s product. Fragmentation is a limited issue now and it is less than it was before. And figures are excellent prove for it. Going from zero to hundred thousand apps in a year is a fantastic accomplishment. If the problem was so serious no developer would build for this platform. Google does have some difficulties. But they are not so great as Steve Jobs described it.
As a developer having chance to choose among different platforms and having developed for different platforms Jason Braverman tells that he is a little bit disappointed by Apple continuing their closed policy and their unwillingness to open at any level. He gave an example. BioLock product requires certain degree of access in order to unlock phone with your iris. When talking to Google, when talking to Microsoft Blue Planet Apps had very open and frank conversation on this area and as for Apple they just said that there is no way to touch their operating system.
That probably goes back to a very long policy and ideology of their having to compete in global marketplace with Microsoft and Sun and everyone else, when they had a very small market share and they were mostly educational system for a long time. At that time keeping iPhone closed made sense but today it should be revealed.
Finally Blue Planet Apps CEO told about his company plans. At the moment, he says, “our challenge is to produce things that we have in the pipeline fast enough. As for a long time strategy we have some prototype products designed for the auto manufacturers and it is really going to revolutionize the way people interface with their cars. Probably you know that BMW has announced about putting iPod in BMW cars and we have a concept of using Android based tablets as an interface. In general Blue Planet Apps see themselves as developers of quality applications intended for enterprise market: security sector, government sector, and business sector. “