Traditionally, mobile games were developed by developers who took the risk, and reaped the rewards. A studio called Bravado Waffle has decided to try and turn this process over by using “venture capital” contributed by users.

Read on to find out more about them…

Please tell us more about yourself and your company
I’m Stephen, the CEO and Game Designer for Bravado Waffle Studios. We are a startup mobile game development company based in San Francisco. We are made up of 3 team members right now and we have been working for the past seven months on our debut title RoboArena for the iPhone and iPad iOS devices. RoboArena will be a multiplayer casual strategy game inspired by the classic board game RoboRally, and is just the first of many titles we have slated to develop.

Please describe the program for which you seek crowd funding
We are turning to Kickstarter for fund raising to help us complete the development of RoboArena and start the marketing. Kickstarter is an exciting platform that allows small startup companies and entrepreneurs crowd source their fund raising. Supporters pledge money to the projects they would like to see completed, and get to be a direct part in the development cycle. What makes it even more exciting is the fact that it not only allows you to raise funds, it lets you build a community of loyal invested supporters and fans. These fans are what will make or break your success, especially in the competitive world of iOS Apps. Crowd Funding is fund raising, market research, and community building all wrapped into one!

Traditionally, developers have born the risk of development costs themselves. What has motivated you to deviate from this strategy
Traditions are old and crusty, they are made to be overturned. My question is: Why bear all the financial risk if you don’t have to? Web 2.0 has brought us many ways to waste our time, but it has also brought new and exciting ways for savvy startups to raise funds and build their fan bases. Going the crowd funding route, you literally have nothing to loose and everything to gain. It lets you interact directly with your fans, it lets them be a part of the process and feel like they are part of something bigger, it can endear you to your fan base, and it lets you see just how interesting your ideas really are!

How did you set up the crowd funding process
We researched what it took to run a successful campaign and structured ours so that it had the best chance to succeed. We planned the pledge tiers carefully and weighed the costs involved so that we could set a reasonable and fair funding goal. We decided to go with Kickstarter even though it limits us to a US audience since it is the most popular platform out there and has the biggest audience. This is important for us since we didn’t come into the campaign with a fan base to start out.

Above, you mention that you expect support from the fans who invested into the game. What kind of support do you expect?
Well these fans that are willing to invest in your campaign will likely help you in spreading the word to their friends, and giving your game great reviews. They get to feel like they are a big part of the games production, and indeed they are. Word of mouth recommendations is the very best way to market and advertise a game, and it’s probably the hardest as well.

Given that this is an iOS title, I always include a few generic questions. Do you still see sense in supporting OS 3?
Of course. There’s a ton of older devices out there, and not supporting the previous OS systems would be like shooting ourselves in the foot. Especially since our game is 2D and *hopefully* will be easy to run on them. I don’t know the numbers of those who run the older iOS versions, but I’m guessing it’s surprisingly high.

Do you plan to port your products to other platforms
We’d love to port it to Android as well as release the game on the Mac App store. Steam is also an option for the future that we are considering since it is very indie game friendly.

Ever since Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 at the Mobile World Congress, loads of – sometimes contradictory – information has been pouring out of Microsoft’s.

Given our traditionally good relationship with Microsoft Germany, I have managed to grab a hold of Microsoft Germany’s Mobile Technical Evangelist #1. As usual, he was extremely talkative and had a lot to say on Microsoft’s future roadmap – enjoy:

Please tell us more about yourself
A: I’m a Technical Evangelist for Windows Phone & Windows Embedded at Microsoft Germany. I spend most of my time speaking with the mobile & embedded developer & professional community, technical decision makers, and OEMs.

When Windows Phone 7 was announced, it was met with dislike from many power users. Was this expected?
A: Windows Phone 7 is a new kind of smartphone which is designed for people who are looking for a mobile platform that is fresh, exciting, and supports them in everything they do in their private and business life. Windows Phone 7 provides a superior user experience, social connectivity, entertainment, games, and also messaging and mobile documents which business users depend on. Most “power users” are actually positively surprised about the new features in Windows Phone 7 as we reveal them as part of our ongoing launch activities.

Continuing to look at Windows Phone 7: it misses many features power users needed and which made WM popular. Why did they have to go?
A: Windows Mobile was traditionally designed primarily to replicate the desktop on a phone, putting the highest priority on manageability, flexibility and line of business applications. Windows Phone 7 actually follows a different approach. Here, the end user experience has absolute priority – usability, performance, stability are the most important design aspects. Everything that does not support this goal, or can’t be implemented in time while meeting our high quality bar, will have to wait for a subsequent release. We aim at delighting our customers with the first release, and will continue to add features in a way that supports our overriding platform experience principles.

Why wasn’t it possible to keep the existing application library alive?
A: In order to meet our design goals mentioned above, we also had to think about the way that applications are distributed, acquired, and executed. 3rd party apps should never compromise the platform experience. Therefore we built a new application platform, based on .NET, Silverlight, and XNA, which gives developers and designers new exciting ways to express their creativity. They will have to migrate existing applications, though, to take advantage of the new possibilities. However, we have already had great feedback on the developer experience for Windows Phone 7, with developers saying it is very quick and easy to develop on the platform. Ultimately, this will benefit the user experience.

The new chassis regulations provide licensees with very little leeway for differentiation. How do you expect licensees to differentiate their offerings? And why introduce them if the market has worked before?
A: We’re introducing new, tighter hardware specifications to make sure the devices fully support the new platform experience when it comes to performance and reliability. We also ensure there is a consistent Windows Phone 7 experience for the end user across different device manufacturers.

We also think that there should be choice for customers when it comes to certain key device characteristics such as physical keyboards, screen size, camera resolution, and many other exterior design aspects of the phone. This is where OEMs can differentiate their devices.

Microsoft originally intended to keep WM6 alive as Windows Phone Classic. Will this still be done now that WME has been announced? If yes, for how long?
A: Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile 6.5 will coexist in the market for some time. Windows Mobile provides many advanced enterprise features that large customers rely on in managed environments.

For industrial devices, we have just announced a new, dedicated product – Windows Embedded Handheld (see http://www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/products/handheld/overview.mspx). It will be available in our embedded channel. The first version will be based on Windows Mobile 6.5. For the second half of 2011, we are planning another release based on Windows 7 technologies, which is called Windows Embedded Compact 7.

Staying on topic: do you expect Windows Mobile Enterprise devices to be sold to consumers, too? Will you try to prevent this?
A: If this question is about Windows Embedded Handheld, it is a dedicated platform to meet key line of business (LOB) scenarios and boost productivity of the mobile enterprise workforce by enabling users to capture, access, and act on business critical information where and when they need it.

Who has already signed up for WME?
A: For Windows Embedded Handheld, Motorola has just announced their first new device built on that platform (http://mediacenter.motorola.com/content/detail.aspx?ReleaseID=12951&NewsAreaID=2).

Could you give us a sneak peek at what to expect in the next revision of the platform?
A: We appreciate your curiosity, but we cannot comment on details of unannounced products. We will keep you posted!

Anything you would like to add
A: Microsoft is re-defining its smartphone platform with Windows Phone 7, and is bringing phones, desktop, web, and game consoles closer together, connecting them through the various Microsoft cloud services, both for consumers, and business users. This will be an exciting first step into a whole new platform experience which we will quickly evolve in the future. Which means exciting times, and new choices, for smartphone customers. :-)

Resco can be considered one of the grandmasters of Windows Mobile – their applications have scored extremely well in TamsPPC reviews in the past, and are recommended for every power user.

As the boys have recently moved into enterprise and developer components as well, I felt that they are more than qualified to discuss Windows Phone 7. Here is what Ivan Stano had to say:

Please tell us more about yourself and your company
Resco, founded in 1999, is a privately held company based in Bratislava, Slovakia. It is one of the global leaders dealing with Windows Phones, Pocket PCs, smartphones, and mobile devices. Resco has 3 divisions that cover the demands of current mobile market: Enterprise Solutions, Developer, and Applications Division. I am responsible for marketing and PR of Developer and Enterprise Divisions.

What were your initial impressions after the launch of WM7?
The release of new Windows Phone 7 is highly expected at Resco. Based on what I could see so far, Windows Phone 7 has the potential to compete successfully with the competitors like iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others. I would like to point here to the fact that Windows Phone 7 is strictly consumer based product. I believe the user experience and GUI is attractive enough to succeed within this target group. The new technology — Silverlight — will put new challenges for developers and effects Resco as well. We are working hard to launch new mobile controls for Windows Phone based on Silverlight technology and integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio in Q4 2010.

But there is another big group of mobile solutions users—business. It covers industries like field services, scenarios including bar code or RFID scanning, etc. This group will stil use devices running Windows Mobile 6.5.X and the same technology—WinForms.

Did you expect Microsoft to do something different?
The GUI concept is very subjective. Personally, I like the idea of panoramatic screens and hubs. The thing to consider is the scheduled release. As far as I am concerned, Holiday Season could be too late to catch up the leaving train. Especially after the new iOS was released, not even mentioning the progress of Android over the last few months.

I think it is still too early to consider Windows Phone 7 from technology point of view. There is still 6 months ahead of us.

Windows Mobile was popular for its downward compatibility. Are you unhappy to see this go?
When I look at it from end-user perspective, it is not a big deal. I believe the most of the end-user customers are not programmers that would have an unconditional need to upload their custom made apps to the new Windows Phone 7. They rather use ready-made, optimized apps they can rely on.

The other group of users: software engineers or programmers can stick with Windows Embedded platform line. This one will remain open and it will continue to support developer tools used in building applications.

Given that you are in enterprise, how have your customers reacted to WM7?
Many of our customers demanded info whether Resco will support new Windows Phone 7 with the mobile components. I am pleased, I can announce that my collageagues are already working on a new toolkit optimized for WP7. It will be a new technology — Silverlight and WPF — therefore they had to start from scratch. The release is scheduled for Q4 2010.

Do you expect Windows Mobile 6.5 to stay around for long?
I would say so. Furthermore, the news from Microsoft that came directly from Steve Ballmer indicates that the WM 6.5.X under name Windows Embedded Handheld platform will be supported and updated at least for another 2 years. Paralelly will be developed a new platform, named Windows Embedded Compact. But this one will be based on Silverlight technology already and will offer rich user interface and enhanced functionality.

If there is one thing you could change in WM7, what would that be?
I would definitely include support for databases.

How does the consumer division think about WM7?
The platform has got rid of the main functionality admired by geeks and the business segment and is friendlier with users that are new in the smart-phone market, or to users that are interested in cool looking devices and that don’t care about the advanced functionality. It is of course a logical step, especially when comparing to the iPhone’s success because the target market is a lot bigger than the current Windows Mobile one.
We believe that there is a potential in this platform, but we will have to wait for the final specifications and development tools.

What is your favorite WM7 device so far?
Based on what I could have seen so far, I like Dell Lightning the most. It has a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, OLED display and a lot more under the hood.

Anything you would like to add?
The new Windows Phone 7 seems to be a potential platform that can play a significant role in the mobile market. The only thing I have a little doubts about is the timing of the release. Holiday season might be little late.

All in all, I hope Microsoft will make it.

Our recent HARO-query was not too successful – we got but three answers. The first has already been published; and the second one is below.

Sean M Westcott, author of a book on taking control of technology, states the following:

I think the new Windows phone OS looks to be a winner. I have (and love) my Zune HD and have taken a stab at XNA(used for making games on the Zune and Zune HD and rumored to work on the new 7) coding. I use my WinMo 6.1 phone for business, but the Zune is my entertainment device of choice. My wife uses WinMo 6.5 but I am glad that I waited for this new phone OS. It gives the business user the Windows programs for serious business use but brings a much more pleasurable UI so I can carry a phone that combines beautifully form and function. It means I can carry one less device in my pocket—which alone is a huge improvement.

One final opinion coming soon – stay tuned!

When it comes to finding out about what users think, Peter Shankman’s HARO is a lovely tool. It reaches loads and loads of tech heads…and usually generates loads of responses.

This time, my request for feedback harvested but three responses. Our first victim is Matt McCormick from Jet City devices. He states the following:


I own a small company and 80% of our business is repairing cracked iPhones. As such, I pay pretty close attention to the entire smartphone market. I’ve watched the news on the new MS phone pretty closely and I have a number of thoughts.

First, there are a TON of unknowns. Will it multi-task, what kind of hardware will it run on, how many different kinds of hardware will it support, what will the developer tools look like for creating apps, how much customization will manufacturers be able to add, what software will be on it by default (Mobile Office?), and many, many more. It’s just way too soon to say for sure if this is a good or a bad product but I think it has some serious potential. Here’s what I like so far:

1) Everything I’ve seen and heard (I haven’t demoed it) is that the interface is both beautiful and completely different.

2) I love the idea of multiple hardware providers and multiple carriers. It should drive the quality of service/hardware up, increase features, and reduce prices.

3) While not new, I think the aggregation of people’s data/communications around individuals rather than apps is great. I’d much prefer to browse my contacts and see what emails/texts they’ve sent me and at the same time see their Facebook and Twitter posts.

4) The XBox Live feature could be awesome. Right now the iPhone’s biggest advantage is it’s App store and this feature could let WP7 launch with something that won’t be as good, but could be pretty impressive.

Stay tuned – the next statement comes soon…

ChainFire’s recent cracking exploits hit Microsoft’s Marketplace for Mobile hard – after all, no somewhat sane developer really likes a leaky ESD with weak DRM.

At TamsPPC’s, we pride ourselves of going below the surface of things. Enter Frank Prengel from Microsoft Germany, who explains Microsoft’s position on the topic. Enjoy!

Please tell us more about yourself and your role at Microsoft’s
I’m a Technical Evangelist for Windows Mobile & Windows Embedded at Microsoft Germany. My audience is the mobile & embedded developer & professional community, technical decision makers, OEMs, and the press.

Do you consider the claims of the xda-developer – hosted cracker ChainFire legit? After all, he claims to have broken advanced protection within 2 hours.
We understand that as long as there is a financial incentive for pirating software, there will be criminals working to circumvent anti-piracy protection. All protection is designed to be a deterrent, but none can offer a guarantee against piracy. The advanced solution we delivered in November is as strong or stronger than what is available on other app sites and we will continue to work with ISVs to take steps to help preserve intellectual property – it’s an ongoing process.

Looking at the past “crack” of the standard, CAB-based protection. Have you seen sales increase or decrease after it went public?
We do not have any sales specifics to share at this time.

Does Microsoft plan to introduce some sort of ‘developer-server-based’ unlock code generation, where developers can generate unlock codes with their own algorithms on their servers?
There are no plans to support 3rd party unlock codes in Marketplace.

In general, do you consider piracy an issue in mobile? If yes, to what extent?
Yes, software piracy of any kind is an industry-wide problem and affects all (mobile) platforms. Microsoft is working along with industry partners to make consumers aware of the increasing risks associated with acquiring and installing counterfeit software such as exposure to critical issues and identify theft.

Not wanting to give the cracker a legitimate, public stage – but his question was interesting. Does Microsoft plan to deliver its own ‘for-pay’ WM applications?
To give you an example, Microsoft is offering Office Mobile for purchase from Marketplace for Mobile today.

Any sales figures for the Marketplace so far?
We do not have any sales specifics to share at this time.

Do you think that classic ESDs still have a place in today’s mobile market?
Please elaborate on what is meant by ESD.

I know that it is a bit rude to ask this so early – but should we expect our wm6 apps to run on wm7?
We do not have any details to share at this time.

Anything you would like to add?
We understand the importance of preserving intellectual property to deliver a great end user experience and evaluate each act of piracy on a case-by-case basis to determine how best to respond.

It’s important to remember that Microsoft as a company has heavily invested in combating piracy through engineering, education and law enforcement – a holistic approach that we believe reduces both the supply and the demand side of the equation.

1a Interview: Berthold Thoma, CEO, Hutchison AustriaHutchison Austria’s CEO Berthold Thoma is known to be extremely talkative when faced with journalists – the interview below has him talking about a few interesting things.

Before diving into the (translated) interview, let me give you some background information from other sources: this carrier has always invested heavily into smartphones due to their multimedia features. Originally being deep in Microsoft’s camp, they have since moved over to the S60 camp (which makes up for about 30% of the offered handset models). The carrier is known for its great service at affordable prices – here we go:

The Hutchison Group was the first to offer free roaming all over its network. Why that?
At Hutchison’s, we are convinced that having cheap data access all over the world is an integral part of information society. We have realized thiis vision inside our group via the 3LikeHome service.

Of course, there is a business plan behind all of that. Our research has shown that cheap roaming is in demand. Lowering prices causes usage to explode: in the first year, voice usage in 3likehome networks increased by 427 percent, with data usage being multiplied by a factor of 90.

Do you think that we will see further carrier mergers?
The trend has already started. Three of the four Austrian carrieirs are already in international networks, which will consolidate even more on a long term.

Where do you see Windows Mobile in two years?
We currently sell three Windows Mobile handsets. Our business customers love the Exchange integration, and Microsoft furthermore does a great job integrating Live into the OS.

I predict that WM’s market share will raise over the next two years. The main risk IMHO is Android…if it continues to fare as well as it did, it could become a significant competitor.

What do you think about S60
S60 has had some problems staying in line with other OS’s, especially when apps and the web browser are concerned. I wonder which future updates Nokia will deploy in order to remain competitive…

The iPhone is said to dominate the handset market. Do you think that Apple can keep this position?
Apple has caused movement in the handset market, but has since maxed out at a 13 percent smartphone market share…which is not something I call dominance.
Nevertheless: customers benefit from every movement on the market which leads to better handsets.

What do you think about picocells?
In general, these do not pay off financially. However, I can envision them being deployed to cover hot spots like shopping centres….

Will VoIP replace classic voice calls?
VoIP definitely is interesting, especially for customers who are into international calls. Teens furthermore love Skype. Unlike most other carriers, we want to help our customers realize the benefits of these services and thus provide pre-bundled Skype with some of our handsets.

As for VoIP replacing classic calls: unlikely.

Opera ASA, the manufacturer of various mobile browsers, has managed to gain a cult following on almost all platforms: Windows Mobile heads love the superb rendering engine, Symbian heads used to love the tabs and Palm OS and BlackBerry heads used Opera Mini to replace their crappy default browsers.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Thomas Ford from Opera Mini on various topics ranging from tab-capable Opera Mini builds to Opera Turbo and Opera for S60 – read on for the full scoop..

Please tell us more about yourself and your company
My name is Thomas Ford. I’m a communications manager for Opera. I started working for Opera in 2005, so I’ve been pretty lucky to watch some of our more recent history unfold.

Opera is the only company in the world that makes Web browsers for all devices. So whether you have a PC, high-end smartphone, Web-enabled TV, or even a Ford F150, you could have an Opera browser there as well.

Despite what some people believe, Opera isn’t a small company. We have more than 700 employees working in our offices around the globe. I think what impresses me the most is how passionate everyone is about the business of building Web browsers. You could look, but I am confident you would not find another company of its kind anywhere.

As it stands now, mobile devices get more and more powerful by the minute. This makes native browsers more and more competitive. Don’t you think that this will squeeze OPM out of the market?
I think despite the advances in native browsers there will still be plenty of room for Opera. Native browsers are really improving on only one type of device: smartphones.

On those higher-end phones we still offer plenty of advantages to consumers, operators and phone manufacturers. For one, we offer Opera Mini and Opera Turbo to help ease the bandwidth constraints on today’s mobile networks. Creating a browser is hard work and we have the experience to make great mobile browsers that consumers enjoy using.

We’ve been doing it for 10 years and that experience gives us the ability to do things faster and more cost effectively for our partners.

At the same time, smartphones comprise less than 15% of the total phone market. By far, more phones are sold without high-end browsers natively. For these phones, Opera Mini is the ideal solution. Operators love it because a better browser translates to more data revenues, so we actively work with operators to offer the same Web browsing experience throughout their device portfolio.

Opera Mini shines on devices where the integrated browser sucks (think Palm OS Treos). As mobile web browsers get better, don’t you think that Opera Mini will fade away?
Rather than fade away, Opera Mini will continue to evolve. Consumers demand a better mobile Web experience, but not all OEMs and operators want to put their resources into making a Web browser, particularly as consumer expectations increase. We can offer Opera Mini very easily to operators they know it will work on almost all their phones, with minimal effort on their part. At the same time, it makes surfing on these phones enjoyable, so more consumers actually use it. This translates into greater revenues for operators while at the same time consumers have a good experience. By addressing both what operators and OEMs need, as well as what consumers want, I think Opera Mini will have a bright future.

I should also point out that there are approximately 1.6 billion people on the Web, but that anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the world’s citizens have a mobile phone connection. Over the coming years more people will get online with a mobile device than ever did with a PC. I think that trend will continue to ensure both Opera Mobile and Opera Mini remain vibrant products.

What about the future features of Opera Mini? Will it ever get tab support, for instance (the beta was available some time ago).
Tab support is definitely one of the most requested features for Opera Mini. I can tell you that we listen loud and clear to the feedback we receive. Opera Mini 5, when released, will be a major step forward for Opera Mini. I think you and your readers will be quite excited.

The native version of Opera is under pressure as OS vendors improve their browsers (think IE6 mobile). Where do you see Opera Mobile two years from now, and now will it remain competitive?
I think Opera Mobile will support more platforms and will include even more server-side technologies to improve browsing on mobile devices. Due to the sheer size of the required investment, newer mobile broadband technologies are not rolling out as quickly as the newest, most advanced handsets. Opera Mobile will help bridge that gap.

I also think in general you will see more operators and OEMs looking for a single, unified browsing solution across their product portfolio. Opera is the only company that will work with operators and OEMs to create a browser that can work on all their devices. We can even include widgets, for eaiser access to Web-based applications. Our work with T-Mobile on their web’n'walk platform speaks to what we can accomplish when we collaborate with world-class operators.

A version of Opera Mobile which uses the 3d chip of some phones for scrolling has been announced some time ago. Why isnt it available for purchase yet?
Actually, we just announced a beta of Opera Mobile 9.7. It supports some of the hardware acceleration you mentioned. If you have a Windows Mobile phone, visit http://www.opera.com/mobile/download/ to give it a spin.

What about Opera for Symbian? We have heard of licensing troubles with the Flash player in the past…
Clearly consumers now more than ever want Flash on their handsets, primarily to access the wealth of Flash-based video content on the Web. Adobe understands this and we are actively working with them to find a solution.

As far as a browser for Symbian, our current focus is on the widget platform for Series 60. Expect to see news on the browser front sometime this year.

Opera’s accelerator proxy looked very promising in the demo video. When will it become available to end users, and at what price?
Right now Opera Turbo is available for free in the new Opera Mobile 9.7 and Opera 10 desktop versions. All those servers and all that bandwidth comes at a price though, so we are still studying how this affects our business model.

I suspect by the time Opera 10 reaches its final release, we will have our business model in place for Opera Turbo.

When will Opera be available for the BlackBerry?
As a BlackBerry user myself, I would be lost without Opera Mini. If you’re looking for Opera Mobile on BlackBerry that may take some time, so Opera Mini is still your best choice.

Only good things will come from more people using Opera Mini on BlackBerries. For instance, with more people testing and identifying issues, we can fix them faster. Maybe a large user base on BlackBerry will also help us in the same way that it worked for Virgin Mobile. They found a lot of their customers were using Opera Mini, so they reached out to us and we worked with them to perfect our browser on their phones.

Anything you would like to add?
Thanks for the chat. Using our browser is one way to support our goal of making the Web an open resource for everyone. I hope more people discover the mobile Web through Opera Mini.

AkahibaraNews recently sat down with HTC’s “online PR/Community manager” Eric Lin. Eric was extremely talkative – PocketPCToughts has summed up the three parts as following:

* Part I (embedded above) – 6:54 mins long – covers who Eric is and the HTC brand;
* Part II (17:48 mins) talks about the Touch Diamond 2 and Touch Pro 2 and the improvements made to both (and in passing possible plans for sucessors to the HTC Advantage and HTC Shift); while
* Part III (22:34 mins) shows off an early engineering sample of the HTC Magic (HTC’s upcoming Android phone) and also covers the HTC Snap, along with a general discussion on upgrading possibilities to WM6.5 (bad news for Snap fans – no confirmation yet).

Hit the link above in case you have an hour to spare…

Mobile content providers have always made me wonder about the economies of mobile computing – they run extremely expensive ads, sell very bad programs and yet don’t die off.

I recently had a cup of tea with somebody from this industry who wants to remain anonymous but nevertheless wanted to talk…here’s what our buddy had to say:

Do you sell subscriptions only?
We advertise subscriptions only. However, individual downloads can also be bought via the web sites.

Does the heavy MTV, etc advertising pay?
Well…first of all you must look at it this way. We buy huge amounts of airtime…so our total cost is much lower than what you see on the rate cards.

On average, well, we pay a few hundred thousand euros a month…and it obviously pays out for us.

What’s your average user?
Dumbphone user – no heavy-duty smartphones in here. Age ranges from 13 to about 19…and the users arent too smart. This actually makes our life easier, as piracy becomes a non-issue.

One more facet you will likely be interested in is that we have over 90 percent female users for some love or partnership related fun apps…

How long, on average, does a customer stay bound?
I don’t want to say more here as this would give my identity away…but it’s about four and a half months for all of the industry.

What happens if users are on prepaid and run out of cash?
We try to bill his card for about two months…and then give up eventually… . Our company is not too big on lawsuits…they don’t pay out for us…

Do you do native S60 or PPC apps?
Hell gee, mate. Covering all S60 boxen gets you 20 percent of the market at best. J2ME is king here…and also keep in mind that most of the sales come from music or photos.

How can an ISV do business with you?
Not at all – find an aggregator.

You have to think of it this way: we sell hundred thousand and more positions. For us, 60 items is nothing…we usually wont even negotiate with you.

Why not offer individual apps as subscriptions?
Please don’t say that I sound haughty if I say that all business models possible have been tested. The current model works best – believe me on this one.

Did the German Jamba lawsuit affect your ability to do business with minors?
I have to say that this is largely irrelevant to us, as it was limited to a single county of Germany. We sit in a different county…so no impact here.

After that, my informer was picked up by a mate…so the story ends here. Nevertheless, much of this was new to me, and hopefully was interesting!

What do you think?

header1 SPB on SPB OnLine   the interviewSPB recently sent me a flurry of releases relating to a product called SPB OnLine. As I never quite got the idea behind it, I decided to sit down with an SPB official and figure out what its all about.

Even though I didn’t manage to whip out 10 questions like I usually do, the answers below should answer most(all) open questions:

Please tell us more about yourself?
A bit official here: Spb is the global leader in the design of Windows Mobile applications. An international company, with offices in Hong Kong, Russia and Thailand, Spb combines a unique line of popular consumer products and cooperation with the world’s leading OEMs and carriers.

The popularity of Spb’s products is founded on their relevance to real customer needs and smartphone use cases, supported by superior technical implementation, stability, and quality graphic design.

Spb has recently launched a mobile entertainment division, targeted at helping mobile network operators reinvigorate subscriber enthusiasm for mobile entertainment and data, through delivering improved mobile content experiences on handsets.

SPB OnLine has been a bit of a mystery to me. Could you give me an elevator pitch describing what it does?
In short, the main goal of Spb Online is to do the same thing with online services, as what Safari did with mobile web. Popularize, make it usable!

As the product clearly is targeted at operators, why sell it to end customers? After all, it essentially is a glorified app store…
Working directly with end users was always the strategy of Spb, and even when we go to OEMs and MOs, one of the main reasons they work with us – is because we know how to make software and services that end users love. So all of our products always go to the consumers :)

I would also disagree that Spb Online is an app store. The store is only one of the 6 services in the package: mobile TV, radio, news, weather, online games, all of when have nothing to do with the store.

For sure, we are working on getting more channels in, and on organizing sms payment for content in the store, and many other things, to make the online suite irresistible for end-users.

Do you plan to sell third-party programs via the portal?
We already do.

Indeed we do not manage the app store part of Spb Online ourselves. This part is managed by Handster.com – an independent software reseller.

Looking at multiplayer games: how do you want to ensure that a minimal amount of users is always available?
Each days we have thousands of online game sessions played. Hundreds of new users join each day, and at any given moment about 20-30 people are playing online.

Our online games are a uniting factor. We think that it is awesome that people can share a game, regardless of what plan they are signed up for, with which operator, in what part of the world, or what language they speak. It makes no difference, you can still enjoy this service, connect with people in other countries, and just play.

Could you give us a hint in what way the program will evolve?
Our next step will be to provide access to more TV channels. right now we are working on a premium subscription that will give access to premium TV channels.

Microsoft obviously plans an App Store of its own. Do you think that your interests are threatened in any way by this announcement?
The reason we have included an App Store in Spb Online is because nowadays there is no good solution for WM to distribute software. And it harms both the end-users, who do not know where to get software and easily to buy/install it, and it harms the software developers/mobile operators, who cannot get additional income by providing good programs to end-users.

So we have developed a client that functions as a sort of a meeting place :) but if a similar, functional client comes preinstalled in the next version of WM platform – well then this problem is solved, it will be better for all of us, will finally be able to reach many new users out there.

As an ISV, will we will be the first who will benefit from that.

nsblogo2 NS Basic   the interviewGeorge Henne’s NS Basic is an extremely popular RAD tool for mobile platforms – developers who would like to use a VB like tool which allows for easy porting, flock to it in droves.

Unfortunately, the company’s representatives have not proved too talkative so far. This has now changed, though – look forward to a highly interesting interview looking at the development landscape, mobile computing platforms and – last but not least – the iPhone and its distant predecessor, the Newton!

Please tell me more about yourself!
NS BASIC was founded on the idea that if development tools were easier to use, more people could develop apps for mobile devices.

The most widely used dev tool in the world (53%, according to Microsoft) is Visual Basic. It seemed natural to design a VB like tool for mobile devices.

Our customers are in all sorts of industries, government and education.
We have been translated into half a dozen languages: our users are in over 80 countries. Close to 20,000 developers use our products.

Diving straight into your core business (NsBasic). Tell us in a short form why the world needs yet another Basic clone!
Everyone knows Basic, for good reason. It has a gentle learning curve.
Beginning programmers can understand the concepts easily and create their first apps right away. Modern Basic implementations are well enough designed so that it is reasonable to do sophisticated applications.

Where do you see the main benefits for developers?
Ease of use and quick development are the main ones. We have had many reports of experienced C++ developers using NS Basic to put together a quick proof of concept: In a day or two, they have a workable prototype to show the customer. It often works out that there is no need to spend
2 more months recoding in C++.

On the other extreme, there are professionals in other fields that would like to develop apps for handheld devices. For example, many doctors have specific apps that would help them in their work. They’re smart people, and have learned a bit of programming on the way. They find NS Basic is just the tool for them to create apps.

How does NSBasic work? Do the programs compile to native code, or is a runtime needed?
There is a runtime, but we do our best to keep it in the background, so it isn’t a big deal. Nearly all apps have some sort of runtime these days, whether it is in form of libraries, DLL files or overlays.
Runtimes do not mean the app has to run more slowly: in fact, key code in our runtime is written in ARM assembler for peak performance. What they do is add a great deal of power: a single statement in NS Basic will replace pages of C++ coding.

You have a very strong market in the Palm OS sector. Where do you see the Palm OS going? Which platform(s) will dominate the market in a year’s worth of time?
Palm was a strong marketplace for us for many years. For Palm’s sake, I hope their new devices come out in a timely fashion and can wow the marketplace. We will certainly support them if they do.

NS Basic/Symbian OS already outsells NS Basic/Palm. We’re working hard to make it a great product: we think it will be an important part of our future.

Do you feel the US sub-prime crisis?
Not directly. It’s likely that the economic uncertainly is leading companies to put off new development projects, which will certainly affect us. It’s a worldwide affair this time, which is different from past downturns.

To what extent is NSBasic compatible with VB and/or AppForge?
NS Basic is a subset of VB, with extensions to take advantage of the mobile platform it runs on. The important things a VB programmer needs are all there – but there are a lot of specific and weird things in VB that didn’t really have a place on mobile devices. An obvious example is Windows specific features, that just do not exist on other operating systems such as Symbian OS.

AppForge was a strange case. Technically, it wasn’t great, but it had a big marketing budget. When that ran out, the company was gone: the licensing model was not friendly to its customers.

Many AppForge customers have converted to NS Basic: it is entertaining to read their comments:
http://www.nsbasic.com/palm/info/kudos5.html

You have recently expanded your reach across platforms – is porting an app significant effort for the developer?
Moving to a new platform is not new to us: Symbian OS is our fourth major platform.

For developers who use our tools, it’s not too bad. NS Basic/Palm apps move to Symbian OS usually with no changes at all. Of course, once you are there, it is tempting to make use of features that are specific to the new devices: better graphics, extra features, etc.

You still support Apple’s Newton – does it still pay? Furthermore: do you plan to go iPhone one day?
We still have a lot of affection for the Newton. We still sell the occasional copy of NS Basic/Newton. It’s an important platform in the history of mobile computing. You’d be surprised how many current developers of handheld devices started on the Newton. I think the devices we are seeing these days are finally beginning to realize the potential that the Newton introduced us to 15 years ago.

We actually have NS Basic/iPhone working:
http://cdn.smugmug.com/ria/ShizVidz-2008051501.swf

Under the terms of Apple’s iPhone SDK, tools such as NS Basic may not be released. If they should ever change this policy, we would love to release the product!

Anything you would like to add?
I think the next two years will be very interesting for developers. The iPhone changed the rules and everyone is still trying to catch up. It’s good to see touch screen S60 devices: now the software has to catch up.
Our tools have always been touch screen oriented, so we are ready for the fun!

NS Basic has a large and active user community. If you have questions about our product, let us know. We’ll be around to help, along with many of our other users.

Editors add due to overwhelming interest: in order to understand Rudolf’s position, please look at this article before reading the interview. It looks at HP’s strategy in some detail!

HP’s mobile strategy has recently left a few open questions in some analyst’s heads. As TamsPPC has had an excellent relationship with HP ever since we debuted on a rx4240, we proudly present you this interview with Rudolf Gruber.

Rudolf Gruber is the sales manager for mobile devices for HP Austria – he sat down with us for a no-holds-barred interview looking at topics like custom UI’s, PDAs, the future of touchscreen devices and Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrades.

A big thank-you goes out to him for taking the time!

Please tell us a bit more about yourself! (translated by editor)
I am at HPO since 1982. When HP was merged with Compaq in 2002, I became responsible for marketing the business line of mobile computing devices for the Austrian market. This means that I am responsible for iPaqs and business notebooks alike, and hope to be able to answer your questions well!

Let’s dive in head first: the 21x is a great PDA hampered by the lack of a Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrade. Readers are unhappy, as HP once was considered a “future-safe” investment. Could you shed some light on why there are no upgrades available?
HP is evaluating for all iPAQ platforms, what are the Pro & Cons for the customer to move to a new Windows Mobile version.

Taking Windows Mobile 6.1, the key improvements were rather relevant for the Smartphones (eg. UI, OTA device management), which are not of big value for pen/based PDAs. On top of that the 21x platform is mainly selling into Enterprise and MidMarket, where long life cycles and ROM stability are key influencers.

A big part of HPs enterprise customers are running their own applications on our pen/based products. Thats the reason why their are expecting platform stability for at least 2yrs.

In two years from now, do you still see HP producing PDA’s?
HP still has a very strong position in the PDA market, and even if this market is declining with almost 50% market share in EMEA thats definitely a business we will not step out shortterm. Nevertheless the focus for HP is clearly in the converged space.

Palm has enjoyed huge success with its ultra-cheap handhelds. Do you plan to do something similar / can something similar even be done with Windows Mobile?
Portfolio bandwidth including affordable price bands are major influencers in the Smart Mobile Device Market.

iPAQ%20Data%20Messenger Generic%20Front HP speaks iPAQ   the Rudolf Gruber interview iPAQ%20Voice%20Messenger Generic HP speaks iPAQ   the Rudolf Gruber interview
HP has launched two new smartphones on Oct 21 to expand the portfolio with a 20Key voice-centric smartphone and a large display slider device. With those new platforms we are covering multiple form factors for different customer segments also looking for different pricepoints.

(images added by editor)

HP’s phone products are notorious for their QVGA screens. Why doesn’t HP deploy higher-res screens?
HP is always evaluating new technologies. This also includes the evaluation of new screen technologies and new User Interfaces. Form factors are pretty much influencing the decision for a specific screensize.

For small screen sizes below 2.8″ only a limited number of customers are looking for high res screens, thats was the outcome of multiple focus groups we did.

Nevertheless for larger screens the future is highres, touchscreen and improved UI. HP is investing a lot in R&D for those areas to develop products, which are time to market in terms of latest technology, securing a superior user experience.

Looking at Windows Mobile: are you happy with the way the platform is developing currently?
The WM platform has massively evolved over the last couple of years and brings huge benefits in terms of end/to/end user experience for multiple target segments, not only for enterprise and midmarket customers.

Microsoft has put a lot of efforts to into the overall Messaging capabilities and integration into Microsoft backend systems.

Most manufacturers add a huge bunch of UI apps to their devices. HP does not – why?
HP is evaluating new user interfaces with a higher integration compared to what we do see today in the market. The benefit of a more graphical user interface is obvious, but it only makes sense, if such a user interface is fully embedded into the ROM and the key applications.

Where do you see WM two years from now? Do you think that the touchscreen-less WMS will survive?
Touchscreen based products are a big trend today and many new products came up and will come up in the future. This will surely be a growing market.

Nevertheless there is a big variety of form factor preferences in the market, which will also keep opportunities for non touchscreens.

How do you think that th mobile OS landscape will look in two years from now? In five?
For the evolution of mobile OS platforms, there are multiple influencers, GTM strategy, customer focus, ISVs, VARs, devices supporting those OS platforms etc.

As the Smart Mobile Device Market is still one of the fastest growing markets, there are a lot of new opportunities.

Each and every .NET CF developer is perfectly aware of the pains involved in obfuscating applications in order to keep their source code safe. ArianeSoft’s Pocket Programming Language is another development solution for PocketPC (it IMHO has quite a few advantages over .NET CF) – here’s what they have to say on security:

Please tell us a bit more about yourself
My name is Alain Deschenes, I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with my wife and daughter. I have been programming for the past 20 years. I started on an Apple IIGS in 1986 in Basic, then Pascal, Assembly, C and C++. I am the president of ArianeSoft Inc. and the author of PPL (Pocket Programming Language) and DataMite.

Do you consider piracy an important issue in the mobile computing space?
Yes. Most, if not all, mobile applications and games are cracked these days. It is a big problem. If a little company wants to stay alive and healthy, it needs to work on anti-piracy features in their programs.

Has ArianeSoft itself ever had piracy problems?
Yes, we are always working on tightening our security. We know we cannot win this game but at least we try. It is very unfortunate that people, even today, don’t realize that the sales we are loosing as a small company, really impacts on our future. The mobile community is like when I started on the Apple II, they were mostly small companies developing softwares. We have to work harder and protect our softwares better without causing too much troubles to our customers.

What does ArianeSoft do to help its customers stay safe?
We follow the warez scene closely and make sure our products stay protected, we have multiple methods for protecting them and change them every once in a while so that cracks only work for one version.

.NET CF has recently gotten under fire because applications created with it are easily disassembled. Is this possible with PPL, too?
Not unless you know how to. There are encryption, compression involved and then you need to know how the undocumented PPL’s bytecodes works. We are not saying it is impossible but until PPL really becomes a major player with critical applications developed with it, there should be no worries.

Does ArianeSoft plan to offer a “signed app” program in the future; thereby hindering pirates to run unsigned code on their machines?
No plans yet, maybe in the future.

Some developers have considered virii an effective deterrent to piracy. Do you think that their idea could work out theoretically?
I don’t think so. We need to protect the customers. We need to make sure the program is not going to think you are an illegal user and do something bad to your device or your data. The only thing your program should do in the event of piracy is stop functioning.

Do you think that device manufacturers are interested in reducing piracy?
I don’t think they care and they have no reasons to. They should care about making better devices and the software developers should worry about piracy. Unless they find a hardware solution to piracy, then that would be an amazing feature.

Will ArianeSoft ever offer a “disassembler” or release the specifications for its intermediate language to the public?
No.

Anything else you would like to add
We are starting work on version 2.0 of PPL. There is still a long road ahead but PPL 2.0 will bring major improvements to the visual form builder with a complete object-oriented control library. Thank you for considering us for an interview.

Resco Defender(aka tower defense for Windows Mobile) recently scored a rave review from TamsPPC. Due to our long-standing cooperation with Resco, I am proud to present you an exclusive interview with the game’s creator – enjoy:
defender logo Resco Defender   interviewing the creator

Please tell us a bit more about yourself.
My name is Juraj Mojik and I am a game developer & programmer at Resco.net.
juraj mojik photo Resco Defender   interviewing the creator

Have you designed other applications/games for mobile devices before?
I have designed and programmed these games for Resco – Seal Ball, Table Soccer, Diamonds and Defender. I also participated on Resco Brain Gain.

Where did you get the idea to create Defender?
Tower defense games are quite popular lately. It is because they are simple and very addictive. We have tried it on ourselves here at Resco so we know what we are talking about ;)

After some research we found out, that there is no remake for Windows Mobile which fits our needs. So we decided to make our own concept.

What were the main issues you faced while bringing Tower Defence action to the PocketPC?
The issues are almost the same with any game idea that should be played on so many devices – how to make it look good on so many different display resolutions and orientations. We decided to make the whole game map visible all the time instead of scrolling a larger map. We had to layout the information and control elements in such a way, that the game view is maximized on every device.
scr sqr 001 Resco Defender   interviewing the creator – square screen

scr 001 Resco Defender   interviewing the creator – portrait mode

scr land 001 Resco Defender   interviewing the creator – landscape mode

Also we had to think about the controls – stylus and keyboard – to make the game as easy to play as possible. The main goal was to keep it simple and fun.

The game’s enemy hoardes sometimes have really astonishing capabilities. How did you work out the balancing?
This is the work of my colleague Michal, who is also a graphic artist – he has spent hours playing Resco Defender and setting the stats for the enemies and the towers. He has set the Medium difficulty to be challenging for him and derived the other difficulties by weakening or strenghtening the enemy stats. He tried to set the game to be entertaining from the beginnig to the end so you have to build and upgrade towers at every level from 1 to 100. I think he was quite successful.

Why didn’t you include a dedicated set of levels/missions? A terrain editor?
We thought that the most entertaining way how to play tower defence games is the creative one – where you do not have a set of levels, but everything is up to you – how you build your maze.

What is your favourite ‘tower layout’? Why?
I prefer long horizontal lines from left to right. Only in the middle I create short vertical lines (arranged like teeth) so the enemies have to go around every top of a vertical line, where I position a boosted black magic tower – very effective for destroying ground enemies. I use almost every type of tower possible to create maximum efficiency:
my favorite conf Resco Defender   interviewing the creator

What is your favourite tower? Your favourite creep?
My favorite tower is the Teleport tower, because wisely used it can have destructive effects. Also the overall graphic effect of this tower is nice.

My favorite creep is the pink one – which we call cloner – the one which when destroyed falls apart into four small ones. I like it because there is a lot of money for this one.

Can we expect a sequel?
We have a lot of interesting ideas, but only time (and success of the first one) will show if we make a sequel. But we would love to.

Anything you would like to add?
We love to hear from players that Resco Defender is entertaining and fun. Thank you for your support.