Keith Pichelman, CEO of Concrete Software was kind enough to take some time away from his busy schedule and give us a phone interview today.
Thank you Keith for taking the time to answer our questions. Concrete Software has emerged very quickly as a leader in consumer software for mobile devices. Could you tell us a little bit more about how your company got started?
Keith: Sure, we’ve been around since 2003 and are based in Minneapolis, MN. In late 2003 we won the Nokia Series 60 best personal productivity application for our Driving Log application and shortly after that were the first company on many mobile platforms to have a Texas Hold’em game which was really our first big hit. From there we expanded out to many other mobile platforms including BlackBerry.
Concrete Software was founded on the idea of making innovative mobile software that runs across many mobile platforms. There are so many software titles in the market that building the same old product without innovation will only go so far. When we build a new product there always has to be a reason why we believe the product is something the market needs and if there is a similar product in the market we make sure we differentiate ourselves. We also want to be able to provide our customers our products no matter which mobile device they are on. This helps our sales channels so they don’t have to sell our products to a small subset of their customers.
Concrete Software currently offers many products. Which of your programs are the most popular, and why?
Keith: Our Aces Texas Hold’em game is still the most popular game. First, Texas Hold’em has a huge market, which probably doesn’t surprise many people. It’s the type of game that has a very broad audience. You can see this same type of audience for most of the top selling mobile games. Card games, Sudoku, chess, logic games, they all have a wide audience.
Now just because you make a game for a wide audience, doesn’t mean it will take off. We really sat down and designed the game for the mobile device and tried to make the game play the best it could be. This includes the special scrolling layout to handle huge tables and also using content experts to make sure the game play was enjoyable.
BlackBerry devices are running Java; how does the software development compare to other platforms such as Palm OS and Windows Mobile?
Keith: As part of our development process we always design and first build our products in Java. This works out well and allows us to easily work with most mobile phones and BlackBerry devices. From there we port to C++ platforms including Palm OS and Windows Mobile. So for us the main work is done and designed using Java, while the C++ is on the porting side and really depends on a good reference Java side that is clear and well written.
BlackBerry software is usually sold online or OTA (over the air). What are some of the benefits, and challenges, of this type of distribution?
Keith: Selling BlackBerry software OTA makes the consumers experience of purchasing software a good one, people don’t have to go through all the extra install steps usually needed when installing. The main challenge then is that we want anyone who has a BlackBerry to be able to buy our software and not worry about if they have a 7100 or an 8700. This means we have to support all the different BlackBerry screen sizes in one application. Supporting all the different screen sizes then challenges us to keep the total size of the software down so that it can be delivered OTA.
With the introduction of new consumer devices from RIM, do you believe users will start using more software on their phones?
Keith: I do. I believe this is because RIM is moving towards a philosophy where they are creating devices that are geared towards other segments besides the business user. The perfect example of that is the new Pearl BlackBerry that was recently released. As long as that does well, which it seems to be doing well so far, we should see more devices built for more segments.
Which mobile device do you currently use day-to-day?
Keith: Well, being in the industry that we are in, I tend to switch often so that I know what is available and can compare and see what the differences are. So right now I’m using the Pearl since it was just recently released; I’m still trying to get used to not having the scroll wheel on this phone!
What are the three most-used applications and/or games on your handheld?
Keith: Email, for obvious reasons. The calendar/scheduler that comes on devices and the alarm clock. I guess there isn’t anything too exciting. I tend to have our latest game on that is in a beta or alpha stage as well so I can do a little testing myself.
Lastly, do you have any “sneak peeks” of upcoming applications or other surprises you’d like to share with our readers?
Keith: Sure, why not! We will be coming out with a version of Aces Blackjack for the BlackBerry sometime in mid to early December. We should also have a number of exciting releases in early 2007 but I can’t give away too much!