OK, in hindsight, we may have obsessed a little about a few things recently – tablet devices, hybrid computing, consumerisation, all that malarkey – but we’ve had our reasons and a whole lot more questions are going to need answering along the way. What will devices like the iPad mean for businesses? Where’s it all going? How and where will tablets and the like start gaining business traction?
Who to ask about it all?
Alright then, how about the CEO and co-founder of the world’s number one selling print App for the iPad?
Meet EuroSmartz’ Ian Schenkel.
iQ: First of all Ian – as I’m sure all the budding developers and entrepreneurs out there will be fascinated to know – how exactly does one go about developing and marketing a worldwide number one selling App?
Well that’d be telling. What I can say is that from the moment we received the iPad SDK (Software Development Toolkit) in January last year ahead of the iPad’s official announcement by Steve Jobs in the April, we tried to apply the same kind of principles, logic, and common sense to developing our Apps and making them a success as you would full-blown enterprise software.
I have been closely involved in setting up a number of UK software start-ups over the years (often on behalf of US companies that previously hadn’t had an EMEA presence). On the face of things developing for the App market is different, but in fact many of the same dynamics apply.
iQ: Is that all it’s been since the iPad first arrived? A year? Really? It already feels as though it’s been with us forever…
I know. But yeah, the iPad wasn’t announced until April last year.
iQ: So what made you er, Pad up, so to speak?
Well we started out in the CRM space, and pretty successfully too. But we found ourselves struggling to break through on to that next level.
Then in 2008 I read an article about this guy who was making some serious money by developing for Apple’s iPhone AppStore. By the time I got to the end of the piece I was thinking “my god, why in the hell aren’t we doing this?” So we did.
Give it a go, we thought; see what happens. And that’s how the whole thing began. That’s really the beauty of developing for this market. You come up with an idea, develop it, and away you go.
Our first App – Snow Trails – was actually an on-piste GPS Skiing App for the iPhone. It would tell you how far you’d gone and how fast. (And to be honest, it wasn’t great!)
We launched our first print App for the iPhone in late 2008. From there things quickly went from strength to strength and when the opportunity to develop for the iPad came along it was a natural progression.
I must admit, we were among those expecting a whole barrage of iPad Apps to appear as soon as the iPad was launched, but that didn’t really happen at first. (When the iPad first came out there were 2,000 or 3,000 Apps available for it).
But for us the timing seemed to be right, we knew that our programming, features, and functionality were great, and I think that those things together with our support for a massive variety of printers made us a popular choice.
iQ: But to quote an old saying, you can invent the world’s greatest mousetrap, but the world won’t beat a path to your door to buy one unless you tell them about it. How exactly do you make an App and undisputed global bestseller?
A lot of it is clocking up those good reviews. Although getting people to review you isn’t easy. Again I don’t want to say too much – we do kind of have our own special formula – but my background is in sales and marketing so I had a fair bit of know-how there.
Also one of our major tools tends to be PR, which, especially from the point of view of the start-up, is definitely your friend. Sure, doing PR right can be difficult, but it’s worth it in the end.
Someone once told me that Richard Branson would never refuse an interview and we’ve always tried to take a similar stance.
iQ: None of this would be possible without the iPad of course – but why do you think it has been such a success when manufacturers having been trying and largely failing to push tablet formats for years?
For me it is due in part to a very well thought out, easy to use piece of hardware to which it is extremely easy to add software without having to reengineer it each time. But it is also due to the fact that Apple has provided so much support and easy to use development tools.
This has made a very low barrier of entry for App developers to create useful and often innovative Apps in many different categories. From document editing to printing Apps, right through to niche Apps for specific business requirements, an iPad owner can be up and productive for their specific business requirements within minutes of opening the box.
iQ: There’s a lot of debate right now about the role of the iPad and devices like it within the business. What’s your view?
One of the best ways to answer this question is the iTunes AppStore – which is virtually a built in barometer for what people are using their devices for. All you need to do is look at the popularity of different Apps and then draw conclusions.
It is probably still too early to truly tell what the trends are here in the UK, but there are some interesting things happening in the AppStore across the pond, stateside.
Looking at the top grossing iPad Apps in the US store, there’s been a dynamic shift away from the type of Apps that iPhone customers have bought traditionally. Whereas it’s not until you get to number 41 that you see the first productivity App on the iPhone chart, eight of the top 10 iPad Apps are business and productivity related.
At Eurosmartz we dug around and conducted a quick, non-scientific straw poll; asking a cross section of our customers what they were doing with their iPads. It soon became clear that a huge variety of people – from doctors to salespeople, landscape gardeners to building contractors – are now using their iPad for business. And the vast majority told us that their iPads are boosting their efficiency and productivity.
The question I keep hearing is “is it replacing the laptop?” The simple answer to this is no, but that doesn’t mean that business people are necessarily always carting around their laptops anymore. Thanks to the iPad’s portability and instant start-up, they are starting to use such devices in situations where they wouldn’t usually use a laptop.
When I went on holiday recently my laptop never left the hotel room, but my iPad did. The iPad is already having a pretty big impact on the way business people are carrying out their daily tasks and this is likely to continue and accelerate as the iPad and others like it reach critical mass. You can’t do everything on a tablet. So there will always be a need and a place for the laptops – at least in the near term.
However we are definitely seeing the emergence of a third category of computing.
iQ: A third category of computing or THE third category of computing?
You’re right, I probably would call it the third category of computing.
I guess it’s what you might otherwise call ultra mobile computing. Not just always on, but always connected. It’s going to take LTE to make that happen properly (LTE aka 4G aka 3GPP Long Term Evolution – the latest networking technology from the lineage that delivered the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA standards.) But in a few years when I tell my kids that we really did used to “dial up” to the Internet it’ll be like “What!!?”. They’ll never believe me.
[At this point an email arrives on Schenkel’s iPad from his colleague Olly reference an escalated helpdesk issue. “The other day someone told me that they’d seen Olly in the pub during the middle of the day, and asked me whether he should have been working”, smiles Schenkel. “He was working, I told them. That’s the thing with the iPad. I don’t give a s**t where you are. Knock yourself out!! Just as long as you have your iPad with you.”]
iQ: Mmmm interesting. That whole incident kind of answers my next question. Anyway, how in your view is this third category going to grow, evolve, and manifest itself moving forward? What constitutes critical mass?
Everyone’s talking about the iPad right now but the interesting thing, as I say, is that we really haven’t anywhere near reached that critical mass yet in category three computing – despite Apple having sold all those units and despite all the momentum.
It is going to happen though.
People often ask me why they need an iPad, what they would use it for. But once you own one you very quickly begin working differently and thinking differently about how you use technology.
My wife – who has an early, hand-me-down iPad – picks it up and uses it perhaps 15 or 20 times a day. She never used her laptop anything like that often!
Driven from a consumer perspective and by this consumer mindset that kind of attitude is going to start gaining traction among business, where more and more people will start choosing tablets over laptops for a range of tasks. When this happens it won’t be long before business start going – “what’s all the fuss about?”
I suppose “critical mass” will happen when we start to see the frequency of company tablet usage really start to ramp. 1 in 10? 1 in 20? 1 in 30? It doesn’t really matter. It’s essentially once we stop seeing people raising their eyebrows when someone gets out an iPad and starts using it in a business context.
And this is already starting to happen. Companies are setting up divisions just to set up Apps. We’ll also start seeing developers springing up all over the place and bringing industrial Apps to market. And again that’s already beginning to happen. There are all kinds of applications, all sorts of areas productivity to explore.
I’d say that within 12 to 18 months on the outside, businesses are going to HAVE to start considering making tablets part of their strategies.
iQ: Based on that, how will the marketplace shape in the mid-term do you think?
I think we could see lots of consolidation in the software market as App builders start becoming attractive targets for acquisition. The result will be lots of big houses with lots of Apps in their portfolios.
I think we’ll see a lot more specialist and niche Apps too. Built for purpose Apps. Project-based Apps. Right now we’re all buying everything from the AppStore, but companies will soon start to see the efficiencies to be gained in making their own self-built Apps available on tablets.
Everyone seems to look at the App market as something brand new – it’s this, it’s that, it’s the other. But it isn’t. Not really. It’s really just a new way of packaging software.
EuroSmartz is the world’s number one provider of printing Apps for the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Its flagship App “Print n Share“ was chosen by Apple to feature in its “Office” iPhone TV commercial, which aired throughout 2009. In 2010 EuroSmartz’ other leading App “PrintCentral” was named “App of the Week” in the UK and European iTunes App Stores.
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