A few weeks back, I headed to the west country for Bath’s Digital Festival. It was there that I first met Intohand‘s Kieran Gutteridge. Kieran ran one of the afternoon workshops (which was fantastic) at the Big M, sharing his knowledge gained from specialising in developing for “anything with a small screen and a SDK”. I caught up with him a few weeks back to talk Windows Phone, the pros and cons of web vs. native apps, why the UK might not produce the next Instagram and a lot more…
Hi Kieran! For those of the readers unfamiliar with your background; who are you, what do you do and what’s your background? Kieran Gutteridge, co-founder and CTO at Intohand. I work with a great team who deliver applications primarily to the small screen; we are platform agnostic and have (just this year) delivered applications for iOS, Android, HTML5, Blackberry and Qt.
I started off in the comparatively dark days of making games for Java mobile, where I became fully aware of the ‘write once test everywhere’ paradigm. However, a lot of the lessons learned such as global distribution, localisation of content, dealing with device fragmentation and software updates are still very much applicable today.
How has the smartphone changed your life in the past few years? Even as someone who has written “apps” before the iPhone, I still find the recent app store explosion and some of the apps amazing – I probably download a new one each day to take a look at what’s being done. I would be regularly lost without Google maps, to the point where I wrote an offline map for personal use on holiday last year!
Given the rise in prominence of the smartphone (and mobile devices in general), what do you think the next 12 months will hold for how we use computers (mobile or otherwise)? I think mobile – and tablets in particular – are giving us a new way of manipulating and visualising data and even more importantly humanising technology for “non-techies”. People who can deliver real business value to an organisation, from my perspective are starting to see these devices as much more of an essential tool rather than an occasional means to play games and browse the internet on.
With the current limitations of web apps, do you see native apps continuing their dominance for their foreseeable future? What’s going to shift the balance? I am a big believer in open technologies. As a collective we can use open things to accelerate the ball going forward rather than a large mass attempting to solve the same niche problem; which may only really affect techies.
As Apple and Google have avoided signing up to the W3C Community Group, do you think we’ll see more OS’ like Mozilla’s B2G being developed until Apple/ Google relinquish their grip on appstores (which is ultimately causing them to drag their feet at the moment)? Years ago, as web developers, we all wanted to develop for the shiny new features in IE 6… Which has now become a dirty word.
Mobile Appstores are rapidly becoming like warehouses so I think they will be surpassed by the evolving market and customer needs before long. Standardisation is great but it shouldn’t be used as a defence against innovation. Let’s make use of tools and techniques like Modernizr and fallback gracefully and deliver for the here and now!
What’s going to be the most exciting advance in the mobile space in the next year or so? It’s a hard question as the market is so fluid. Every time I have been asked this question I always say the same, so at the risk of sounding like a stuck record I’ll say the same again: NFC. I am almost certain we will see more interesting advances with augmenting other consumer electronics such as TVs and Cars with data and processing from mobile devices and tablets.
What’s your thoughts on technologies like QR codes and NFC? What potential do you see either/ both having on how we interact with technology in the real world? The current use of URLs for QRs and providing payment solutions for NFC is not where I see these technologies becoming interesting. We can do so much more with them that solve people’s problems (e.g. bump’s image uploading demo [whilst using neither technology, shows a great demo of a "NFC type" solution] – or QRPedia providing people a means to access localised wikipedia entries).
How do you think the UK startup ecosystem is doing these days; can London produce the next Instagram? What (if anything) does the UK have that the Valley doesn’t? I hate to say it but I think we probably can’t produce consumer hits like the next Instagram, as you would need some very risk-friendly capital in the early stages before they [UK startups] gained traction. However, the ecosystem in the UK is very vibrant – and not just contained in London – particularly around mobile; where when accessing global markets is important.
It’s perhaps easier to be in a mix of different speaking nationalities within London and the UK. Whilst being more risk averse, I’d like to think the UK is better at creating sustainable long term business. I sometimes wonder whether perhaps the grass just looks greener, certainly even for myself the lure of Silicon Valley appeals, but Europe has produced some great services in recent years such as Skype, Spotify, Last.fm [to name just a few! - ed] etc.
How much time have you spent developing with the new Windows Phone OS? What are your thoughts? Unfortunately not that much time, the iOS platform (which is where we see the most demand) has meant a migration to OSX. I do think Microsoft are very good at providing tooling and the necessary ecosystem for developers, which some of the other more mature platforms really struggle with. With Xbox, they have the experience in delivering a consumer experience and hopefully are in it for the long haul and will help stir up the market some more, from which we consumers and developers will benefit from greatly.
Where you see WP fitting in with iOS, Blackberry OS and Android in the future? For smartphones I think iOS has taken the top end of the market for the foreseeable future, everything else feels as though it’s playing catch up. On single points, the others can all claim to do something better – Android’s intents and content provider system is something I still feel is under used. WP will probably continue to innovate around the UI and home convergence space and produce great hardware with partners such as Nokia.
You can find Kieran on Twitter or catch up on more of his work on his personal blog. Let us know what you thought of his interview in the comments below or get in touch on Twitter. If you want to have a chat about the interview or anything else you can also Shortmail me!