Pretty soon every individual and firm will be in the app business

15 Mar 2012

Jampot COO Michael Barr (left to right), Jampot CTO Andy McCarney, Microsoft tech evangelist Josh Holmes, Jampot CEO James Scott and coding ninja David Douglas

So we’re living in the ‘post PC world’. That’s fine, but I’m not entirely swayed by the finality of the words that suggest personal computers are over. I think the opposite, I think of all devices – smartphones, tablets, notebooks, desktops – as personal, and all will have a role to play long into the future.

The real meaning of ‘post PC’ is that all computing is personal and we’re just no longer chained to one device, in one place. Mobile apps on smart devices epitomise this elegant post-PC world we’ve entered and they’re big business – last week, the 25 billionth app was downloaded from Apple’s iTunes.

The impending arrival of Windows 8 will herald a new world where apps will be enjoyed on any platform, from phones to tablets and desktops.

At the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) interactive event in Texas this week, the success of Instagram, a photo-sharing app on the iPhone that notched 27m users worldwide caught a lot of attention.

But you would be wise to pay attention to an emerging company from Belfast that was also at SXSW, called Jampot, that is making it possible for any firm or individual in the world to create their own app and publish it within two minutes.

The firm counts Illinois golf buddies, a troupe of Spanish nuns, entrepreneurs and 70,000-employee blue chip companies among its customers.

The start-up company just marked its first anniversary and consists of app developers whose pedigree extends beyond the arrival of the iPhone to the good old days of Nokia Series 60 and even WAP.

The company’s AppBuilder software, which was built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, means the ability to build apps is no longer confined to skilled software developers who are as rare as hen’s teeth.

“We were originally developing apps for the iPhone and we could see that when Android came on the scene and got a foothold and the arrival of Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, that the ultimate app was the app that let everyone make apps,” Jampot’s CEO James Scott explains.

“We looked at the journey of blogs, for example, where first you had to know HTML, then Dreamweaver and then WordPress came along and everyone, if they wished, could create a blog. And so we decided it was important to jump straight to the WordPress level for apps and allow people who never built apps before to get their content out there.

“This is aimed at non-technical customers – if you can create a WordPress or Facebook page, then you can easily create an app with this system.

“As a result, we’ve seen everything from small corner shops, beauty therapists, photographers, e-learning firms and 70,000-employee companies use it to create apps.”

Jampot’s customers

The diversity of users that have signed up for the $29 a month service is interesting, including Spanish nuns who have created their first app to a wedding planner in Hong Kong.

“We’ve even had a group of golfers who created a social app just to take pictures of themselves taking bad shots at the 18th hole.

“We learned early on not to pigeon hole our customers because we’ve no idea where the next one is coming from,” Scott says.

The entire venture was made possible via cloud computing and access to tools such as Microsoft’s Azure. Cloud computing is making it possible for small businesses to sprout up from anywhere and deliver products and services on a global basis.

“The key advantage of the cloud is that it makes it possible for smaller developers to reach much wider channels,” says Microsoft tech evangelist Josh Holmes.

IDC estimates that spending on public and private IT cloud services will generate nearly 14m jobs worldwide by 2015. More than half these jobs will be in small and medium-sized firms like Jampot.

“The app marketplace in the old world would require a fairly large team to build it and a large marketing team and budget to reach a worldwide distribution.

“But in the new world of apps it is currently much easier to hit a worldwide audience as a single developer or bunch of coders working quietly as a large organisation would have had a decade ago,” Holmes says.

Scott concludes: “What we’ve seen is businesses are looking at apps as a way to reinvent their business. For example, an e-learning business in Florida that relies on CD-ROMs and the web to sell its product has used our system that lets people engage in e-learning via their smartphones.

“There’s a growing number of firms that are looking at apps to reinvigorate their business and reach out to customers in new ways. They see apps as a mechanism for return business in many instances.

“Apps have turned everything on its head, and firms and entrepreneurs are really sitting up and taking notice.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years