App designers flock to mobile conference

July 10, 2012 7:20:03 PM PDT
A meeting of the minds in San Francisco gives a glimpse into the future of high-tech smartphones and tablets. Designers are aiming to keep it simple, but also desirable.

Minus Degree Mobile CEO Jonathan Massey showed us his new free app "Melodio." He's launching it at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco. The app helps you send musical messages while you're on the go.

"We wanted to have something that was nice to look at, that was kind of easy to use and it had to be quick," said Massey.

Making things simple and elegant is the focus of this year's conference. In his opening keynote, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus admitted trying to stuff the kitchen sink into a mobile game was a mistake.

"We were too ambitious at first, with Farmville," said Pincus. "And consumers hated us for it. It's because the performance was horrible."

"Designing for a small screen was a lot harder than they thought it was going to be. It turned out that simple is tough and it's tough because you have to work out what to leave out, instead of what to leave in," said Mark Curtis, a Design Firm executive.

Curtis is among the product designers who say people have strong emotional responses to mobile apps because, let's face it, we're attached to our smartphones.

"It goes in your pocket, it sits next to your head when you're sleeping, it's very much part of your life," said Dave Morin, Path CEO and co-founder.

Massey wants his app to be part of your life, too, if you have an iPhone.

"It's on iOS, and soon to be released in the next week or so on Google as well," said Massey.

And right now, that may be the biggest headache in the mobile world -- there's iPhone, there's Android, now there's a Windows phone, and none of them are compatible. But now there's a new set of tools emerging that lets developers write one app for all the platforms.

"Maybe I want these pants, I want to get some details, I want to get extra large," said Jeff Haynie, the appcelerator CEO and co-founder.

Haynie showed us a shopping app that was built with his tool Appcelerator. Developers design the app once and Appcelerator translates it for all the different devices.

"Helping developers spend more and more time on the application and the experience and the UI, and less about the underlying plumbing," said Haynie.

Curtis thinks it's only a matter of time before you can run just about any app on any phone.

"I think all the systems are going to have to find ways of working with each other," said Curtis.


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