Gizmodo's Developers Cubed series offers a behind the scenes look into Australia’s up and coming dev scene. This week: We chat with Rob Manson from MOB about why there are too many App stores, device fragmentation and a certain type of movie.
Developers! Developers! Developers! It's not just Steve Ballmer’s favourite sweat-laden catchcry! If you'd like to be featured in Developers Cubed, shoot a note to alex.kidman at alluremedia.com.au. I'd love to hear from you.
Who are you and where do you work? My name is Rob Manson and I run MOB, an R&D Lab based in Sydney.
Why do we know you? What have you created? You might know me from movies such as... ahem... I mean projects like buildAR.com, the Vivid Sydney mobile app and other work for clients like Warner Music Australia, Sculpture by the Sea, St George, IAG, News Digital, Tourism Tasmania, etc. Our streetARtAPP project was also the first AR app to win a Mobies Award in Australia too.
What platforms do you develop for? We've been doing multi-device, web based apps for about five years now. We target iOS mobiles and tablets, Android mobiles and tablets and various other devices like PCs. Today, a lot of people would simplify this down to Responsive Design for HTML5 apps... but we put more emphasis on the different contexts of each device as well as doing a lot of integration with the native APIs.
What are you working on right now? Our biggest project is buildAR.com. It was the world's first AR Content Management system and it's still the most popular with thousands of clients around the world using it. We've just released a new version about 3 weeks ago that includes support for Layar Vision image based AR and since then all sorts of publishers, educators and big brands from all over the globe have signed up. It's amazing to watch what people are creating with our platform.
What do you think about the rise and rise of App Stores? How has it influenced your titles? We've recently stopped using the term NAFAPS (Not Another F*cking App Store) term lately as this trend seems to be dying down a little. But from our perspective we believe it's the web that will win out in the end. We do a lot of native app development, but it's getting harder and harder to justify a business case for developing and maintaining apps for all these fragmented platforms. Once the new APIs like getUserMedia and SensorAPI stabilise and WebGL/WebCL become common across all browsers (mobile, tablet, PC and more) then the need for native apps will quickly evaporate.
What's your favourite app that you didn't create? I did really like the Path UX experiments...until the debacle about it uploading your entire address book was uncovered 8(
What phone do you use? Why? Lots of phones because we have to do a lot of testing...but the one I'd probably call my own is an iPhone 4S...because the retina display is even better than my laptop's display.
What advice do you have for budding Aussie developers out there? Focus on modelling/developing your API/Services first. Apps/UIs come and go, but access to the underlying data and features just get more important over time.
Focus on working in small, highly productive teams cause that's where you'll produce the most and learn the most.
And start thinking a lot about sensors. They are the key technology that is driving the constant change in all the devices we use.