This week, for our series of developer interviews, we're joined by Gergely Orosz who is an established developer with the likes of AppFlowCocktail Flow and Flashlight 7 under his belt. Head on past the break for the interview and to read up on his advice and thoughts on the Windows Phone developer experience as well as the platform itself from a consumer perspective.
Tell us about yourself and how you got into software development.
I'm living in London and work as a WPF developer. I've gotten into software development at college - I graduated with a computer science degree and started doing WP7 development when the beta was announced in 2010. I've developed most of my applications together with a startup company from Budapest, Distinction Ltd (http://teamdistinction.com) who are an amazing group of UX experts and developers.
What do you think of Microsoft's platform (from a user perspective) and how do you compare it to competitors?
I think it's a platform very well put together with several great differentiators from iPhone and Android. Having used both platforms, I think it's safe to say that feature and usability wise WP7 Mango is at least as good – and many some cases even better - than iPhone and Android. People who I show my phone are always surprised how cool WP7 really is.
What's the number one feature you love the most in Mango?
From a developers perspective the performance has vastly improved (e.g. animations are almost twice as fast) and background agents and local SQL database make app development much easier. From a user’s perspective I really like the fact that my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are also synced on the phone.
What path(s) led you to develop for Windows Phone?
When Windows Phone came out, having learnt from the ecosystem with Distinction we were pretty sure this platform has the potential to gain significant market share in a few years and be head to head competitors with iPhone and Android. If there's one thing one could learn from reading iPhone and Android app developer stories is that early mover developers have a much better chance of standing out in the marketplace. We decided to be there early and see if we can develop apps that would stand out from the crowd early thanks to their quality, without having to invest significantly in marketing.
What's your take on the Windows Phone development process?
I find developing for Windows Phone to be very smooth. The tools are superior, the App Hub is a much improved experience after the summer refresh. I also found approval times to be consistent as well with usually clear reasoning given should an app be rejected. There are some parts that could be improved though – for example publishing beta apps could be faster as now it sometimes takes 24 hours for it to be available to testers which isn’t very rapid.
Have you developed for other platforms and if so how does the development process compare?
I’ve not developed myself, however Distinction have ported Cocktail Flow to Android (http://cocktailflow.com/) and are working on the iPhone version. Even though they’ve had the application structure and content ready, just porting the application to the two platforms took more time then developing the app from scratch for Windows Phone. With Android they’ve spent probably over 50% of their time targeting different devices due to the fragmentation of the OS (which is just as painful as many say). With iOS the whole approach is much more low level and the learning curve is longer than when developing for Android.
You’ve got a number of successful apps under your belt, including AppFlow, Cocktail Flow and Flashlight 7 to name but a few. What’s your secret?
With Distinction our secrets are probably these:
- Having a great team with an amazing UX designer, great Silverlight and backend programmers, all enthusiastic about the platform. I don't think either of our apps would have been so succesful if they were just a one man project.
- Not compromising on user experience and working around even the smallest performance issues, creating seamless user experience. For example in Cocktail Flow we spent over a week tweaking performance and in some cases even cutting features that just didn't feel fluent enough.
- Building all of this on top of quality content and useful features – it’s the UX that people initially praise our apps for, but the content and features that make them open them again and again. We see this being very true for most of our apps - e.g. in AppFlow we make sure that lists are updating daily and are releasing new packages for Cocktail Flow regularly as well.
What other Windows Phone projects are you working on?
I've developed a small bus tracker application for Edinburgh, the city I’ve lived for quite a few years, but currently am only tweaking the existing ones in my free time.
What advice would you give to other aspiring developers?
Invest heavily in design, build on interesting and rich content or features and don’t compromise on quality – mediocre apps simply won’t stand out of the crowd.
Thank you for your time. Any closing words about WP7's future?
With Nokia having entered the WP7 market I think 2012 will bring dramatically rising marketshare, lots of buzz and even more opportunities for WP7. If ever, now is the time to invest and develop some great apps.
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.