Geek Speak: Scott Michaels, vice president of Atimi Software
If you’ve got an iPhone, there’s a good chance you’ve downloaded an application developed by Scott Michaels’s company. Michaels is the vice president for client services at Atimi Software, a Gastown-based firm that’s made iPhone apps for big brands such as the New York Times, ESPN, and HBO.
Recently, Atimi wrapped up work on the Vancouver Canucks’ iPhone app, which was released on February 9 and has already been downloaded over 30,000 times. According to Michaels, the company has worked on more than 30 titles available in the App Store, which have collectively received almost nine million downloads. Atimi has a staff of 65 and is now developing apps for the forthcoming iPad.
Born in Calgary, Michaels has lived in Vancouver for about 10 years. The 38-year-old technology executive contributed to the standardization of Scalable Vector Graphics before joining Atimi in 2003. On April 7, Michaels will participate in a panel discussion on mobile apps at the F5 Expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
The Georgia Straight reached Michaels on his cellphone in Vancouver.
What does Atimi do?
Atimi is a custom-software-development house focusing primarily on the Macintosh market in both desktop and mobile. And in the mobile space, we also do both BlackBerry and Android.
What’s the most successful iPhone app you’ve developed?
I would say the New York Times’ probably, because it launched with the phone—at the same time as the App Store. That was certainly the most successful from a longevity standpoint, and I think our most recent success has been with the HBO application.
Did working on the Canucks iPhone app present any particular challenges?
It did. There’s a lot of challenges, because we tend to break a lot of new ground when we do these. So, one was particularly around the way we are handling video within the application, as the rules with Apple changed actually during the development cycle.
Do you continue to be involved with the New York Times app?
No, they now manage that application in-house. But we still talk to them about future projects. We’re still involved with them, but I’m not allowed to discuss the future involvements.
What do you think of the state of the mobile Web right now?
I think that a lot of stuff is happening in the mobile Web, in terms of that the last Gartner one that I saw when I was at the Adobe conference with Omniture was that mobile browsing was going to overtake desktop browsing by 2012. So, the need for, I would say, most reasonable-size businesses to have, at a minimum, their site be mobile-friendly and, in certain instances, have applications to support the productivity side of it is a growing need, and it’s only going to get stronger.
What obstacles need to be overcome to make mobile commerce ubiquitous?
Certainly, one of the major constraints right now that exists—and I’ll talk about iPhone because it accounts for the majority of application use—is that to purchase actual physical goods you can’t charge it through to your iTunes account. So, the biggest hindrance is that the mobile-commerce sites are generally quite poor an experience at the moment.
So, you have a high amount of cart abandonment. The reason is I’m trying to shop, for example, and then I’m trying to go through a fairly lengthy checkout process, but it’s my phone, so I get interrupted with a phone call or a text. You see a higher cart abandonment on mobile than you do, say, on desktop.
How is your company getting ready for the iPad?
We’re working on projects that will appear with the iPad launch day. So, we have multiple projects underway with the iPad. We’ve worked with Apple on doing UI reviews and things like that for the projects we’re doing.
What standards did you work on with the World Wide Web Consortium?
That was a long time ago. I was involved with the SVG specification, so that was like early 2000—long time ago. It was a technology that came and went. It’s back a little bit now. It’s actually showing up in iPhones, which is funny, with a little bit of more power. But I still kind of think it’s a format that didn’t meet the need at the time.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.