Now that the dust has settled following the announcement earlier this month of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, I took advantage of a recent opportunity to engage in an email chat about the announcement with a young tech entrepreneur from Australia who has a lot riding on it.
That entrepreneur is Mark McDonald, co-founder and co-CEO of Appster, an Australian developer of mobile, Web, and wearable apps. Founded three years ago in Melbourne, Appster bills itself as a development firm that “works with truly disruptive startups as their technology execution partner,” and claims to be Australia’s fastest-growing app development company.
I asked McDonald if he was surprised by anything in the announcement, and he said there were a couple of things he wasn’t expecting:
The thing that surprised me most was that Apple included the Apple Pay NFC technology in the Apple Watch. This was surprising initially—why would you need it if the phone can do it?—but it is actually very clever. The Apple Watch is compatible with iPhone 5 series users, which does not have Apple Pay NFC payment technology integrated in it. Therefore, with Apple Watch, the iPhone 5 series users get to leverage this new system. The [other big] surprise was the two sizes of screen. Apple has previously been resistant to increase screen size for both usability and device fragmentation reasons.
And were there any disappointments, from his perspective? Not really, he said:
No major disappointments, except that most of what was announced had been leaked extensively beforehand. [Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing] Phil Schiller made the comment, as he was announcing the iPhone 6 and 6+ screen sizes, ‘...in case you don't already know!’ Although I sincerely believe that Apple has executed the new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch products exceptionally well, and these will no doubt be very successful, there is still a perception amongst consumers that Apple is playing "catch up" with Samsung. This is partially true, but there is no doubt that Apple took as much data as they could from the market about the earlier release of larger-screen phones and smart watches, and incorporated this into their products. Ironically, this is what Samsung did to Apple after the initial launch of the iPhone and iPad devices.
When asked what impact the announcement had on Appster’s strategic or tactical plans, McDonald responded that Appster has had many discussions internally about apps in a post-mobile world:
We're always looking at how we can best serve clients looking at developing and utilizing wearables, the Internet of Things, and other major technical trends. One of the biggest by far has been wearables, and whilst it wasn’t certain they'd release the new watch or payment functionality, it extends the capability of apps, which is great for us.
So what does McDonald see as the advantages and disadvantages of being an Australian company in this space? If he sees any disadvantages, he didn’t mention them:
Many of our competitors in the U.S. believe in production-line app development. They'll ask you what you want and then throw it back over the fence finished. Appster is differentiated by our process, because we're about emulating the experience of a technical co-founder, whilst avoiding the hang-ups that come with working with a digital agency or developer shop. We help clients from Day One of raising seed capital, product strategy, technical execution, through to getting product traction. I'd say the main advantage we have being born in Australia is that we come at the industry from a different perspective with a bold ambition of becoming an unprecedented development hub for the greatest ideas and innovations in the world.
Finally, I asked McDonald how he would characterize the role of the relatively small office he has in San Francisco, and how he sees that role evolving over the next several years. His response:
Our San Francisco office is becoming our global headquarters. We'll continue to hire more staff here, including engineers, designers, sales and product managers. A lot of our executive team are also going to be based here, as this is our hub of innovation and disruption—things we believe in at Appster.
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.