A Brief History of App Crunchiness

By June 13, 2011No Comments

Flash Back: February 2011. It’s cold and dark up here in Canada. North of North Dakota. You drink beer so your blood doesn’t freeze. You plug your car in to keep the oil from turning into a solid lump…

It can make you a bit crazy when it’s dark in the morning and then dark again at 4.

We’ve been a pure Windows development shop since Windows 95. There was a feeling that we’d mastered Windows. We’ll, actually, that’s true – I don’t know what we couldn’t write. It’s a sort of Zen understanding of MFC, C++ and the Windows API.

Anyhow, to continue the story, everyone wanted to make something new. Something cutting-edge and uber cool. Something that nobody had done.

Everyone was itching for a challenge…

Background matters… Nerd alert.

Me and software go back quite a ways. No, not back to punchcards, but back to BASIC on the Commodore PET and Apple II. I’ve always loved computers, because, well – they were just so damn cool. By the time I could finally save up enough for my own (thankfully my father agreed to pay half), I opted for a Commodore 128. It was awesome. How could I not learn how to program it??

One of the great things about those old computers is that BASIC was built-in. You were just expected to write software for it. If you didn’t, you weren’t going to get that much out of it. What they didn’t tell you is, that you couldn’t actually make anything cool in BASIC on the Commodore. It was too slow. Microprose wasn’t writing Gunship in BASIC. So, I had to learn some 6502 Assembly Language – thanks Jim ButterfieldMachine Language Programming for the Commodore 64 is still one of the best programming books I’ve ever read. I was hooked. Computers were fun because I could make them do neat stuff that other people couldn’t.

Fast forward a few years, and the Commodore Amiga was kicking ass and taking names. I’m still not sure how Commodore managed to foul that up so badly. IBM PC’s had 16 colour EGA graphics if you were lucky and rich. In the end though, the future was in IBM, DOS and the 8086 processor. Turbo Pascal was just plain ‘ol great. I loved all those old systems – writing software was super fun.

Windows Rocks?

Windows 3 was a game changer. Software was starting to get really interested. But let’s just say that Petzold’s Programming Windows isn’t the sort of book that makes for a light relaxing read. You could make awesome applications, but programming in C with the Windows API isn’t for most people. Actually, it’s hardly for anyone save for us masochists. Writing applications was much different now than in was on the Commodore 64/128.

Anyhow, to speed this up a bunch, I wrote Setup Factory to help make it easier for software to get installed on Windows. It featured really unique ideas like an “uninstall” program… It was new and cool.

Windows 95 just upped the ante. Software was getting harder to write. I came up with the idea for AutoPlay Menu Studio when I installed Symantec’s Visual Café. They had a cool graphical autoplay menu when you inserted the CD-ROM. Writing that sort of graphical menu system wasn’t a trivial project – so the idea with AutoPlay Menu Studio was to let you drag and drop and create it without having to do any programming. It was a hit! It was empowering and people loved it. I hired more people to help write new versions and make other products. Sweet.

Over the years, AutoPlay Menu Studio became AutoPlay Media Studio which is now a full-blown Windows software development system for creating multimedia applications without having to know how to program.

Windows rocked. It was cool.

Where’s the Cool?

Windows still does what it’s always done. It gets the job done and that’s great. But I don’t think many people will argue that it’s lost its cool. Mobile devices – smart-phones and tablets are cool now. It’s amazing how much awesomeness is packed into them. Paired up with web services and cloud storage, they’ve changed the game once again.

We wanted work on something supercalifragilistic cool and we had it.

Sort of. We needed specifics.

Where do we go with this? What sort of expertise do we bring to mobile devices? Answer: We know how to make great user interfaces and we know how to make tools that help people create software…

BlackBerry, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android – Oh My!

First things first. What platform is growing the fastest and why? Where is this market going?

According to Gartner Group:

… more than 630 million smartphones will ship worldwide in 2012, and Android will own 49.2 percent of the market, easily dominating its second-place competitor, iOS, with 18.9 percent share. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry operating system will nab the third spot with 12.6 percent share of the smartphone space. Read more

IDC comes to the same conclusion:

According to Gartner, a whopping 1.1 billion smartphones will ship in 2015.

You can’t ignore that.

Why is Android growing so quickly? Because the operating system is open source. Apple’s iOS isn’t. There are many more device manufacturers for Android. More price points. More options. More choice.

I love the iPhone. I have one and I have an iPad. They were and are innovative products. They opened the floodgates though and there’s no holding back the tide.

Everyone’s heard of the iPhone goldrush. It’s over. But the Android goldrush is just getting started.

Make Android Apps Without Programming

Wouldn’t it be cool if everyone could make apps for Android? What if you didn’t have to be a programmer? What if you didn’t have to learn Java and the Android SDK? What if you could build 100% native Android apps that work on millions of smartphones and tablets – all with point and click ease?

That would be crunchy.

That would be Andromo.

That’s what we’ve been working on since the cold, dark days of February. And it’s coming soon…

We’ve been amassing a metric tonne of information on Android, Java, Ant and Ruby on Rails as we’ve been doing this and thought this blog might be useful to others. We’ll update it with cool stuff as we go…

Rock on.