Inside the heads of the developers the mobile companies (Apple, Amazon, HP, Nokia, Microsoft, Google, RIM) are fighting over

Today Facebook will announce something new for mobile phones. Business Insider gives its guesses as to what’s coming.

At 10:30 a.m. today, Pacific Time, you can watch the Facebook press event live streaming on the Web. I’ll be there as well and will get a chance to interview Mark Zuckerberg after the event.

To prepare for the event I wanted to get inside the heads of a successful mobile app development team. HighFiveLabs is it. They’ve published more than 10 mobile apps on the iPhone platform and just shipped a new app that got the coveted “featured” position on Apple’s iTunes store. What does that mean? Their new “Mario Batali Cooks” app sold about 15,000 copies at $4.99 each. Not too bad for a startup with five employees.

But there’s something bigger going on. They are a representative of a whole new industry that’s popped up in the past few years — mobile publishing houses. These folks are being courted heavily by the big phone companies. Microsoft, in particular, with its Windows Phone 7 is pushing companies like these to port its apps over. Next week I’ll have a sneak preview of Zagat’s new app, for instance, that is quite nice.

Almost every developer I’ve visited lately says they’ve had a visit from either Nokia or Microsoft or RIM or all three. Why are apps so important to these companies? Well, lets say you are a fan of chef Mario Batali (he has lots) will you buy a new cell phone that doesn’t have his app on it? No way. Repeat that question over the thousands of apps that exist on Google’s Android or Apple’s iPhone and you can see why their sales are growing while those of RIM or Nokia or Microsoft’s platforms are stagnant at best.

But that’s only one way to look at this interesting team. In this 48 minute interview with HighFiveLabs’ team, CEO Kiran Bellubbi, along with its head geek and designer we cover a bunch of other topics.

1. What makes for a great mobile app. Their apps have a rich aesthetic that get them onto Apple’s featured list. How do they do it?
2. How they see themselves as a publisher, similar to a book publisher, but how their world is different. Multimedia and interaction design being the biggest ones.
3. Their predictions for what’s coming from Facebook today (He thinks they will come out with a hardware device). What they are hoping for, and how their team might be randomized by those announcements (they are looking for ways to add more social interactions into their apps, for instance).
4. How they built their team for productivity and some of the programming hacks they built to get updates out in minutes, rather than days.
5. Why iteration is so important for mobile app developers.
6. Angst about how they’ll make money on non-Apple platforms (they are porting to Android, but other developers that they listen to tell them that Android users don’t buy apps at the same rate that Apple’s do).
7. Talk about the slate market. They’ve been courted by Amazon, for instance, who want them to build apps for a slate that Amazon is working on.

Anyway, this conversation is long, but there’s lots of interesting insights into how mobile developers think and how they make their development decisions.

Comments

  1. High Five Labs makes some of the best apps. Honeydo and the Mario Cooks app are really well done. Great profile, Robert!

  2. Good open discussion. Impressed by their philosophy, “quality buyers are looking for quality experience”