Meet the Makers: Q&A with Mark Hyland of QuickPlay Media

Aug 27, 2010
Tech

Basic Info: QuickPlay Media Location: Toronto, Ontario Notable apps: PrimeTime2Go™ for: DROID X by Motorola, DROID by Motorola, Motorola CLIQ™, Motorola CLIQ™ XT, Motorola BackFlip™, BlackBerry® Bold™, BlackBerry® Curve™ 8900, BlackBerry® Bold™ 9700, BlackBerry® Torch™ 9800 SIRIUS XM for BlackBerry®, SIRIUS XM for Apple® iPhone™ and iPod touch®, SIRIUS XM for Android™ Platforms: iPhone, iPod touch, Android, […]

Basic Info: QuickPlay Media

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Notable apps: PrimeTime2Go™ for: DROID X by Motorola, DROID by Motorola, Motorola CLIQ™, Motorola CLIQ™ XT, Motorola BackFlip™, BlackBerry® Bold™, BlackBerry® Curve™ 8900, BlackBerry® Bold™ 9700, BlackBerry® Torch™ 9800

SIRIUS XM for BlackBerry®, SIRIUS XM for Apple® iPhone™ and iPod touch®, SIRIUS XM for Android™

Platforms: iPhone, iPod touch, Android, BlackBerry

Specialty genres: TV, music, video Company size: 105 employees

Company description in Mark’s own words: Well, QuickPlay is not an app company, which might be kind of a funny way to start an interview with Appolicious. We focus on all the back-end stuff — ingestion, transcoding, DRM, security, authentication, delivery, billing, reporting etc — that is necessary to create great video and audio experiences inside an app. We especially focus on commercial media — meaning content that someone is making a business out of, either through subscriptions, purchase, rentals and ads, or some combination. Along the way we have developed plenty of apps, and it’s a core area of expertise for us. But more and more, we focus on libraries and APIs that other app developers can use to bring ready-to-use media into their own user experiences.

A good example of this is the very cool iPhone app developed by AT&T for the Uverse Mobile service.  QuickPlay worked with AT&T to bring the video on demand (VOD) experience into the app. (You can see more here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKW83EDczck ) . Another example would be RIM’s new podcast app, which RIM built using QuickPlay APIs. We curate, validate and optimize podcast media for the service, but RIM manages the front end user experience.

How did you and your firm get into the mobile app development business?

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The founding idea for the company was to create great media experiences on mobile devices. When QuickPlay started in 2004, you had to have a lot of imagination to believe that people would ever spend significant amounts of time watching video on a phone. I joined QuickPlay a few months after it started, and the state of the art at that time was a few minutes of grainy video on a tiny screen. We started developed Java apps because we could do more with the UI, and create richer, snappier user experiences than we could with WAP, for example. In those days, we developed a very stats-rich app for ESPN-U, and another — one of the first apps to include video — for VH1. These early efforts got us thinking about app possibilities, but also showed us first-hand the barriers of porting and distribution that made the economics of early mobile apps very tough for developers. The rise of the smartphone OS platforms, starting with Nokia and RIM, and exploded by Apple and Android, reduced those barriers considerably.

In your opinion, how has the iPhone and Apple’s iTunes App Store changed the media industry?

It seems to have started an interesting shift from web to app, and set up a battle between app-centric and browser-centric discovery and consumption of media.  Browser-centric still dominates the desktop and laptop world, with sites like YouTube and Hulu. But on the iPhone, and by extension other wireless portable devices, you can watch all kinds of great video without ever opening a browser. The rise of the new generation of tablet devices marks a real battleground between the two modes because they’re good at both apps and browsing. With apps, there is less reliance on search for discovery, and perhaps the importance of brand rises in relative importance over prominence in search results.

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Describe the differences between developing apps for the iPhone, iPad, and other platforms.

I’m not the guy developing the apps, although I hear lots of war stories about developing on the different platforms. I get involved in the distribution and launch plans for the apps, and a major difference seems to be the Apple approval process, which can be pretty involved. The process does help ensure a high-quality user experience, but also can add some uncertainty to publishing on the Apple platforms.

What factors go into how you ultimately price your apps?

For the apps we publish, we have to take in to account all the cost factors, namely the input costs such as content rights fees. Billing and distribution charges are the other key slices from the pie. And on the other side, what is the app or service worth to consumers? What are competitors doing? For apps we help our customers launch, such as the Sirius XM Radio service, the pricing and bundling is completely up to them. Bundling is a pretty powerful tool when it comes to paid apps and services, so another key factor in pricing is whether it can be bundled with a related product or service.

Describe what your dream app for the iPhone/iPad would look like.

I’m waiting for the augmented reality app that will help me find misplaced keys and sunglasses and all the myriad things my kids are always asking me about. Can’t be that far away.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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