Meet the Makers: Q&A with Matt MacInnis of Inkling

Nov 20, 2010
Tech

Location: San Francisco, CA Notable apps: Inkling (Free) Platforms: iPad only Specialty genres: Education Company size: 35 people Short description of company: Inkling is building a platform for interactive learning content. Backed by Sequoia capital, the company is changing the way interactive experiences are created for multitouch devices like iPad. The company partners with major […]

Location: San Francisco, CA

Notable apps: Inkling (Free)

Platforms: iPad only

Specialty genres: Education

Company size: 35 people

Short description of company: Inkling is building a platform for interactive learning content. Backed by Sequoia capital, the company is changing the way interactive experiences are created for multitouch devices like iPad. The company partners with major publishers like John Wiley & Sons, Inc. to create interactive content experiences that go far beyond the printed book.

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

Inkling was founded in 2009 by Matt MacInnis, an eight-year veteran of Apple. Since the beginning, the company’s mission has focused on improving learning for everyone by creating unique experiences for iPad. The company grew quickly, with people drawn to both its social mission and forward-thinking technology approach.

Building for iPhone was an obvious first start, and the company built Mitosis, a small application to help high school and university students understand cell division. When that small application was met with applause, the company decided to focus its efforts on higher education textbooks. The subsequent launch of the iPad made it even clearer that the future of learning had arrived.

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

We’ve been talking about media convergence for a decade. The iPad (and the iTunes Store) have finally made it possible to bring media like video, audio, text, pictures and interactivity together in a really usable way. So when you look at a title like Lights, Camera, Capture, you’ll see many different types of media in a nicely organized fashion. You can view a photograph, then watch a video about the photograph from the photographer. You can explore how f-stop influences the photographs you take, and you can read the text of the book.

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This new model of publishing, no longer about text and images, but many different kinds of media, will challenge us to create whole new concepts and rethink the very means by which we publish. It’s exciting, and opens a whole new world of potential for communication with readers.

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

Developing for the iPhone and iPad is a unique experience, not only because of the programming, but because of the robustness of the tools we use to build them. Unlike other mobile platforms, the iOS has a very mature foundation, so we can push the limits of the hardware to create new experiences. By contrast, it’s tougher to rely on less mature foundations because they change and shift with each release.

What factors go into how you ultimately price your apps?

It’s hard to measure how much price elasticity there is in the app market, but precedents have been set at various price points. The ubiquitous $0.99 app is now a “throwaway,” whereas the $19.99 app is considered expensive. This contrasts with print books for learning that often sell for $49 and more, and textbooks that are often more than $100. So we price things to entice readers into downloading the title while maintaining some profitability. When you walk into a book store, you can peruse the book before you buy it. In the app world, you have only screen shots and a description upon which to base your decision. So pricing is a trickier business in software than it is in the world of traditional publishing, and the price points are quite a bit lower.

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

We’re building our dream apps every day. Rich interactivity and media, tight integration with the iOS and iPad, rich social interaction and beautiful imagery all contribute to the magic. And as we begin to acquire media specifically for this platform, we think we’ll create ever more engaging experiences that excite and delight our users.

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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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