Developers! Developers! Developers! Steve Ballmer's favourite sweat-laden catchcry is a reminder that all those great apps we spend so much time using on our phones and PCs are made by someone, somewhere. Developers Cubed looks to get a behind the scenes look at some of Australia's up and coming development scene. This week, we speak to John Vella, the one man show behind the impressive little iPhone app, SongCatcher.
Why do we know you? What have you created? I'm the creator of SongCatcher. A musical sketchpad for iDevices.
What platforms do you develop for? iPhone/iPod/iPad
What are you working on right now? Improving my product! There's a few possibilities of where we can go from here, just fleshing that stuff out at the moment, whilst working on updates as well.
How did you get into development? I designed SongCatcher as my thesis project for my Industrial Design Degree in 2006. It was a standalone product, with a laser projection keyboard, and some other unique features. A couple of years later the app store platform came along and it was a perfect fit, so I got busy. A whole new world for me, but a good move I think.
What do you think about the rise and rise of App Stores? How has it influenced your titles? I think it's amazing. The size of the market is absolutely ridiculous, and the overheads relative to other industries are quite low. Especially coming from an Industrial Design background, where things are designed and then there are tooling costs, material costs, ongoing production costs.
With apps, once the product is created you really just have promotion and updates, a pretty tidy business. The app store has influenced me in that without it I wouldn't have any titles. I'm just one person, and I was able to raise some capital, get a project manager and a coding team and make it happen. The amount of work, capital and risk required to get my product to market as it's own unit as initally planned in '06 was enormous. I spent alot of time meeting with people and to be honest, I don't think it would have come to reality. Thank you app store.
What's your favourite app that you didn't create? Fruit Ninja. I think it's such a great use of the functionality that touch screen offers, and it's so enjoyable. I also really like their scoring/penalty setup. Every time you get 100 points you get a life back, so you're never out of the game until it's over, which just makes me want to start again! And you never know when a pineapple is going to float across the screen and make your day :)
What phone do you use? Why? I'm still using my iPhone3G! I've got access to a few others for testing purposes. I guess the reason I haven't upgraded just yet is because it has the lowest specs that run SongCatcher, so it's good for fast testing of new builds. Looking forward to getting an iPhone 5 though!
What advice do you have for budding Aussie developers out there? It's got to be a great idea. Concept is number 1. Yes it's a massive market place, but it's also a massive amount of work. Just chucking something up isn't going to work for you anymore unless it's great. Market research is a must. Who are your competitors? What are their rankings like? If you get that far and you believe in it, do it. Just getting it to the market place is an achievement that you can be proud of, maybe if you work hard enough you will be able to quit the dayjob!