Recently we sat down with Marc Bolh, CEO of Ascendo, Inc. Ascendo makes a number of very popular titles for BlackBerry, including Ascendo Fitness, Ascendo DataVault, and Ascendo Photos. Marc was kind enough to endure a little Q and A session with us. Check it out…
Hi Marc, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. So what do you make of the agreement between Facebook and RIM?
Not much there from a technology standpoint but I think it was a good idea from a marketing perspective. Facebook is trying to position itself as a business platform and BlackBerry is trying to appeal to younger users. So it’s kind of like inviting Lindsay Lohan to a corporate bash.
What do you see as the major trends in mobile software development?
The big trend is the continued displacement of the PC as people’s primary device. The Personal Portable Enabler, or PPE as we like to call it, is becoming the center of people’s digital lifestyle.
My BlackBerry is now my primary device for calendaring, directions, notes and simple browsing. We aren’t knocking the big screen form factor. Almost all of our products come with desktop companions that sync to user’s handhelds. It’s just that if you have to choose between your desktop and your BlackBerry, most people would choose the latter. That’s a meaningful change.
Software is the main driver for this trend and Ascendo is working hard to facilitate the transition.
RIM has been on a roll ever since it introduced the BlackBerry Pearl. How does the track ball effect your product development?
RIM deserves a lot of credit for being the first to deliver a reliable track ball for a portable device. It’s so much better than other mobile pointing devices, fingers included.
In the latest version of Ascendo DataVault, our Password Manager for BlackBerry, we have put a lot of effort into using the track ball to enhance the user experience.
We introduced Roll & Scroll TM in DataVault Version 4. A user can scroll vertically through items like credit cards, logins, etc. and horizontally across fields such as username, password, PIN, etc. So you can display all your information without having to use the keyboard. That’s important because we provide users with 10 fields plus item name and notes for each record, more than the traditional 5 or 6 fields. The track ball allows us to provide more space to store data and super quick access to all of your information.
What do you appreciate most about developing for BlackBerry?
On the technical side, it’s a well engineered device that provides good consistency across handsets. That’s a welcome surprise for anybody who has tried developing for other java handsets.
From a business standpoint, the path to market is relatively friction free. Our sales partners do a great job of providing delivery and payment infrastructure and operators are working with them to promote applications. Most importantly, neither party is burdening the process with excessive selection and certification requirements. They are letting customers choose. That’s good for everybody.
Do you have any concerns going forward?
A software ecosystem is a fragile thing. It depends on handset manufacturers, operators and distributors to make good choices about how they leverage the developer community. On BlackBerry, we have a great deal of freedom to develop, deliver and market our applications. Lately, some distributors have started limiting the way developers can present their products. That’s like Wal-Mart telling companies to use the same packaging. It’s well intentioned, but overall, we don’t think its beneficial.
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