Category: Mobile

GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley, CEO (Part 1)

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with James Whitley, CEO of Hillsboro-based GoLife Mobile.

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.

[Editor: On a tangential note, the first meeting for Mobile Portland—of which GoLife Mobile is one of the founding members—will be held tonight. To RSVP, see Mobile Portland on Upcoming.]

Platial goes mobile

Portland-based Platial, the de facto leader in “social mapping,” has just announced a move that is sure to increase both their user base and their overall utitlity: Platial is going mobile.

Using services from mobile partner, Lightpole, Platial users will now be able to:

… take their maps to go with Lightpole’s new local aggregator for mobile. All Platial maps will now have a Lightpole icon which allows people to send their data to any java enabled phone. Most of Platial’s location-based content will be available with the download of Lightpole’s application meaning that even non-Platial members can access Platial content.

For more information on this new feature, see Platial’s post. To try out Platial and Lightpole for yourself, visit Platial maps using a mobile phone.

GoLife VADOWERX Framework: Introduced to selected developers

Today, Hillsboro-based GoLife Mobile announced that they were introducing their GoLife Mobile VADOWERX Framework to a select group of mobile application developers. As part of the limited availability, those developers, along with other industry executives, were invited to a special introduction at GoLife Mobile’s headquarters.

GoLife Mobile VADOWERX Framework (Click to enlarge)I went out to do some more research on the VADOWERX Framework site, but everything beyond the first page is currently returning a 404 error. (Please comment if you get different results. I might have just caught them during a transition.)

So, according to the GoLife release on the VADOWERX Framework:

Using VADOWERX technology, developers can rapidly create and monetize mobile widget application services. Developers are also able to collaborate and share software modules in real-time, thus, creating an integrated developer economic model like no other. The VADOWERX framework is designed to enable application development and distribution across a wide spectrum of operating systems, handsets, and mobile operators.

If you’re a mobile application developer who is interested in access to the limited release, visit the GoLife Mobile Developer Lab to sign up. For more on the VADOWERX Framework, read the press release.

MIXr: First mobile social networking app with Silverlight touchscreen UI

MIXr Mood Switcher

Today, Portland-based StepChange Group took the stage at MIX08 to demonstrate a groundbreaking new application: the world’s first gesture-driven, Microsoft-Silverlight powered user interface on a mobile device.

The data-driven touchscreen interface, dubbed MIXr, runs in the Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 environment, and was a proof-of-concept to showcase the functionality of these cutting edge development environments for the MIX audience.

“It was lots of fun—though nerve-wracking—to have our team sharing the stage with Ray Ozzie and Scott Guthrie,” said StepChange’s Kevin Tate.

Aside from the Portland angle, why is this newsworthy?

In my opinion, the release of the MIXr application is important for two specific reasons.

First, it proves the viability of Silverlight as an environment for delivering rich mobile applications. And, on a day when the use of these types of technologies in the mobile environment is being rejected by a major player, that’s a pretty big win.

Second, it gives us a glimpse into the future of social networking.

Unlike many of today’s “social networks on mobile devices,” the MIXr application, developed by StepChange in partnership with San Francisco’s Stimulant, demonstrates how the future of social networking may transition to your mobile device.

In other words, this isn’t a “m.” mobile view into an existing social network application; it is the social network application:

[MIXr] uses real-time user updates to track the mood and status of clubs and venues—and helps friends to connect and coordinate with one another during a night out.

It aggregates user ratings, such as a venue’s mood, line length, and music, and uses interactive data visualization to make it easy to figure out what’s hot and what’s not.

“Rich mobile applications are going to quickly change the way we use the Web everyday,” said Tate. “We’re focused on creating applications that leverage the powerful advantages of location, personalization and communication that the mobile environment provides – and have chosen Silverlight as our platform because of its portability and performance.”

For more information on MIXr and developing rich mobile applications using Silverlight, see Stimulant’s post on the MIXr release and StepChange’s announcement on the MIX08 Keynote.

paidContent and mocoNews mobilized by FreeRange

Portland-based FreeRange Communications has announced a partnership with ContentNext Media that will have FreeRange designing and delivering mobile versions of paidContent and mocoNews, currently the 439th and 4,146th most authoritative blogs in the world according to Technorati.

Justifiably classified as “must reads” by FreeRange CEO Jon Maroney, the mobile content for paidContent and mocoNews will be available at http://paid.mwap.at and http://moco.mwap.at, respectively.

Why FreeRange?

“The FreeRange platform gives our readers the latest breaking news with an attractive interface and quick load time,” said Ted Rupp, Director of Business Development at ContentNext. “FreeRange app’s vastly improve the mobile web experience, and provide an excellent outlet for sponsors as well.”

ContentNext chose FreeRange for two specific reasons. First, the FreeRange system updates feeds and content in the background, ensuring that the content is always updated and accessible—even if the phone is out of tower range. Second—and perhaps more importantly—the FreeRange mobile widgets are designed to run on practically all mobile systems, ensuring the widest reader base possible for the ContentNext sites.

And straight from the paidContent post:

The key benefits: all four feeds from our four sites are in one place, and are updated in real time so you get the freshest news. You can view the feeds at your leisure, even when you’re offline. Also, it can serve as your default mobile RSS reader, as you can add your own feeds and even your local weather. The app works on the majority of mobile devices with a data connection besides BlackBerry.

For more information on the ContentNext partnership, see the FreeRange release.

FreeRange Communications enables media companies and consumer brands to deliver their content and advertising to mobile phones in a way that is fast and easy to read. The FreeRange Mobile Publishing Platform allows publishers to have mobile widgets that work on nearly all mobile phones, extending their business models and content to mobile phone screens around the world. For more information on FreeRange and its mobile services, visit FreeRange.

Mobile Portland getting mobilized

Jason Grigsby, who authored the first Silicon Florist guest editorial on Mobile earlier this week, has some more exciting Mobile news to share: the formation of Mobile Portland, a new user group for folks working and developing in the Mobile space.

The idea for Mobile Portland came from our desire to have a place to share what we’re learning and collaborate with other mobile developers. The idea took hold when during a conversation with Jon Maroney of Free Range Communications after the recent PAF panel on mobile marketing.

In addition to Free Range, early enthusiastic collaborators for a local mobile user group include individuals from eROI, GoLife Mobile and bBoing (a.k.a., Summit Projects). We’re pleased that we’ve got a group of people interested in making this happen.

For more information, see the Cloud Four blog. Or visit Mobile Portland to add your email to their contact list.

Guest editorial: Is Portland behind when it comes to mobile?

[Editor’s Note: In a brief flash of humility, I came to the realization that there were any number of experts here at our disposal in the Silicon Forest. Experts who have important things to say. Experts who can help us place the Rose City and the Silicon Forest within the context of a larger picture. Experts who are—quite frankly—more interesting than just little ol’ me.

And with that, I decided that some other viewpoints would be valuable. So welcome to a new feature on Silicon Florist: guest editorials.

First up, please welcome Jason Grigsby of Portland-based Cloud Four.

Knowing full well that one of Jason’s areas of expertise was mobile, I asked him “What’s up with mobile? And how is it going to play in Portland?” And he has graciously replied.

If you find his take interesting (and I know you will) make sure to peruse the mobile series he’s writing for his company’s blog. Or, you might seriously consider attending his presentation at Portland Web Innovators on Wednesday, February 13.

Ack. Looks like my intro is rivaling the length of the content. So, with that, I’ll hand you off to the honorable Mr. Grigsby. Grigs?]

Is Portland behind when it comes to mobile?

People keep asking me whether Portland is behind when it comes to mobile?

I would have never thought to ask this question. If we were behind, what would we do with this information?

Better yet, who would we be behind? San Francisco? Austin? Poughkeepsie?

We might be behind Chicago if Katherine Gray’s out-of-town guests are correct. She wrote to me on Twitter to tell me that her friends wondered why they hadn’t seen many Blackberries in Portland.

Apparently, we specialize in the kind of blackberries that grow on the side of roads and not the ones you carry in your pocket. (Actually, this isn’t true. Oregon’s largest employer, Intel, provides Blackberries as standard issue, and I’ve seen many other business people with them as well.)

If we are behind, what would be the proper measure? The percentage of mobile phone users per capita? The number of smart phone users?

Perhaps these metrics would tell the story. Unfortunately, city-specific data isn’t available.

In the absence of data, I have to fall back to my original, knee-jerk reaction: Of course Portland is behind. The whole country is behind.

In Europe and Asia, both consumers and businesses are more savvy when it comes to utilizing their phones.

  • In Japan, South Korea and China, more people access the web via mobile phones than via PCs.
  • Finland-based Nokia claims 40% of the worldwide market for phones—by far the leading phone manufacturer.

Portland is no more behind than the rest of America. This is one technology surge that we’re late to the game on. And with 3.3 billion mobile devices and growing, it represents the most widespread technology in the world—far surpassing PC, credit cards, and televisions.

Fortunately, there’s still time to catch up before things really take off. Things are lining up for 2008 and 2009 to be big years for mobile. Portland has the perfect combination of technical and creative communities to explore what is possible in this new medium.

I’m excited to see what Portland produces for the Mobile Web.

Jason Grigsby is a founder, Vice President, and Web Strategist at Cloud Four, a Portland-based Web consulting firm focused on Web, Mobile and emerging technology. For more information on Grigsby and Cloud Four, visit Cloud Four. To RSVP for his Portland Web Innovators talk, visit Upcoming.

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