March 24th, 2008
GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley, CEO (Part 1)
I went into the conversation hoping to answer two specific questions. First, I wanted to get more details about the business reasoning behind the GoLife Mobile developer framework, Vadowerx. And second, I was hoping to get a better understanding of why GoLife Mobile found Portland a viable place to found this mobile startup.
Turns out, we wound up spending a good part of the time talking over the top of one another as we shared our complementary excitement for the potential that Portland holds, the amount of talent around here, and the distinct feeling that Portland is on the brink of something big. Really big.
And, GoLife Mobile may very well be part of helping to usher in that next big thing.
Now, there’s no way I’ll cram the entire conversation into a single post. So let’s break it into two posts, shall we? I’ll save the “why Portland?” response for part 2.
In this post, I’d like to provide some high-level insight on Whitley’s response to my questions on the Vadowerx framework.
GoLife Mobile’s framework
I’ve covered the GoLife Mobile framework before. But my cursory understanding of the framework and what it meant to the GoLife business model was admittedly tinged with a prevailing ignorance and a healthy dose of cynicism.
Whitley not only helped me understand what GoLife Mobile hopes to accomplish with the framework, he convinced me that they had a plausible way for getting mobile developers to interact with one another, contribute to the codebase, and profit from their Vadowerx efforts.
From a coding perspective, the Vadowerx framework is designed to operate much like any other application framework. When I mentioned the Rails and Zend frameworks for comparison, Whitley nodded in approval.
“We had to go with an ‘open’ approach to this framework,” said Whitley. “It is the only way something like this is going to succeed.”
Like its counterparts in the world of Web application development, Vadowerx delivers a series of pre-built components for common functions that can be plugged into mobile applications, saving the developer from coding basic elements that are often the same for any application.
“We refer to them as ‘LEGO’s, for lack of a better term,” said Whitley. “They can be combined in a variety of different ways. Combining them one way creates one application. Combining them another way could create something completely new.”
Simplifying application management for customers
A framework is great for coding. But what about the business? What does this open framework mean in terms of customers and revenue for GoLife Mobile?
Customers will likely be attracted by the simplicity of the GoLife Mobile experience. Instead of installing multiple applications, the user installs one.
“No one wants to install and maintain 50 different applications on their mobile phone,” said Whitley. “With our framework, it’s one installation: the presentation layer. All of those applications? They’re distributed and built on-the-fly when and where you need them.”
That’s great news from an application management perspective. Better yet? The applications understand one another, a continual Holy Grail of sorts for any group of applications.
“If I have two applications that share one of these LEGOs, they’re both going to have access to the same information,” said Whitley. “And there’s an intrinsic value there as users continue to personalize the applications through use. That’s when we start seeing some really exciting possibilities.”
And it’s not just mobile users that could benefit from that type of thinking.
“We needed to start somewhere, and mobile was definitely the right place to start,” said Whitley. “But this presentation layer could be delivered to any number of distributed screens, like ATMs, PCs, consoles… you name it.”
More than recognition for developers
Part of making the framework viable is encouraging developers to share ideas and concepts.
“With our framework, sharing objects is built-in,” said Whitley. “It’s not a question of whether you want to share or not, but rather how you want to share.”
But getting that type of participation requires motivation. And GoLife has hit upon something there, as well.
The applications distributed on the framework are currently supported by advertising. That means revenue for GoLife Mobile. But it also means something to the developer community.
“Recognition is great, but we felt that we needed more ways to motivate and reward the developers who take the time to contribute to the framework,” said Whitley. “And so, developers who participate have the opportunity to take a portion of the ad revenue that their components drive.”
Sharing in the wealth should have a positive impact on development, for both the company and the businesses within the mobile development community.
“We’re talking about providing a framework that not only simplifies development, it provides an incentive to participate,” said Whitley. “Wow! Can you imagine?”
The developers who have received early access to the framework are already buying into the vision.
“We were chatting with a bunch of developers last night after 11:00 o’clock,” said Whitley. “They’re excited about this framework and the potential it holds for their development business.”
From the sounds of things, I would imagine a subscription model for the GoLife Mobile service is also likely in the offing, which could provide another predictable revenue stream for the young company. And for the developers.
“Imagine installing one app and then subscribing to all the services you need to use,” he said. “There’s definitely value there.”
More to come
It will be interesting to watch GoLife Mobile continue to grow into its role as the supporter of this framework within the developer community. It’s a role that’s rife with potential. With good reason, Whitley is cautiously optimistic.
“Development—and the mobile market as a whole—is completely fragmented, right now,” he said. “This framework holds the potential to provide structure. And to let people concentrate on the things they do well.”
And that’s just part of what has me excited about GoLife Mobile. The other important area in which this company could have an extremely positive impact? Portland. In part 2, I’ll share my discussion with Whitley about Portland and his opinion on its potential.