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Interview with Adriano Chiaretta from iambic

Posted on 25 February 2008 by Hatem Ben Yacoub

Adriano ChiarettaIambic is one of the already established mobile software companies that started developping for the Android platform. You have probably met with one of their Android applications GoogHelper or Tipper that we announced in previous posts . Adriano Chiaretta – Chief Operating and Information Officer at Iambic – accepted to answer our questions and share their development experience with Google Android.

Q1 : We have introduced iambic in the last weeks to OHM readers with GoogHelper and Tipper, What can we know more about the company ?

iambic was founded at the end of 1993. At the time, the company had two people developing solutions for one of the very first PDAs, the Apple Newton. Making it easy to do time and expense tracking while on the go was the primary focus. Later in 1994 the company expanded its area of focus to include personal information management (PIM). As a result, Action Names was born. Through the years, that application evolved to what is now Agendus, currently available for Palm OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, as well as Windows desktop PCs.

During the last few years, we expanded our portfolio of Windows Mobile applications — with the development of titles that had a broader reach in areas that include: personal productivity, including vehicle managers, health and diet applications, and call management and action taking. In a nutshell, our mission is to empower users to make the most out of their time wherever they are –on the go or at the desk–, through the creation of easy-to-use, yet powerfully customizable solutions.

Q2 : Why the interest to create applications for the Android platform ?

Since the announcement of the new Android mobile OS and related SDK, we have been intrigued by what it promises to deliver at a variety of levels. From a development standpoint, being able to access any tiny detail of the platform without having to jump through hoops is a great time saver, and also saves from countless “back and forths” with device manufacturers for updated handset specific SDKs.

Having the ability to closely interact with the built-in applications and related data storages (love Sqlite and I’m glad it’s the storage engine of choice of Android) is another definite plus. This without forgetting the new operating system is backed by a rather consistent number of prominent companies, leaders in their industry and market specific area. All this, of course, so far on “paper” or “bits” if you want in the form of a quickly evolving SDK, and slick emulator. Will the promises I mentioned above become reality when the first handsets hit the market? I truly hope so.

Q3 : How many developers are currently working on Android projects ? Did you hire or is it from the current dev team?

We have a developer fully dedicated to Android projects, from the current development team, while another one is playing with the SDK “just for fun” — creating small tools so to speak. I’m getting my hands dirty too. I’ve been checking out examples, documentation, and thinking about what else we can creatively use out of what made available through the SDK.

Q4 : Are you just porting current iambic mobile projects to Android or planning new ones also ?

So far, in order to start getting our “feet wet,” we ported a few titles while exploring the possibility of the platform, along with the expected rough edges of the SDK.

Q5 : Any commercial application for Android in your plans ?

We do plan to release commercial solutions for Android. GoogHelper and Tipper themselves might get revised and “enriched” to become commercially distributable.

Q6 : Will any of your iambic projects will take part of the Challenge ?

Yes, we are currently working on a project we plan to submit to the Developer Challenge.

Q7 : How do you compare development under Android to other mobile platforms ?

So far we are finding the development for Android a much more streamlined experience compared to other platforms. I believe this is because the operating system is young (there are no phones based on it yet), and therefore getting up and running with the development environment is extremely quick and straightforward. Unzipping the latest Eclipse, the Android SDK, getting the Android plug-in setup in Eclipse and being off stepping through a few breakpoints while debugging the app on the emulator took less than 15 minutes. On mature mobile platforms such as Palm OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, or BlackBerry the process of installing a development environment, main SDK, various licensees’ customizations, etc. can easily take half day.

That said, the SDK itself is clearly a work in progress. Its documentation is sort of “hit and miss” at the moment and definitely not super clear. And a few of the API calls are not working as expected. Then again, this is the type of stuff I’ve seen in SDKs that are much more mature, so no real news there. It often comes down to looking around forums and message boards for solutions, and spicing up the approach with some trial & error.

The latest SDK released just a few days ago is quite a step forward, although it introduces a variety of changes both from an API/development standpoint as well as from a user interaction / usage model standpoint. The latter according to what the UI showcased by the emulator is telling us. We are investing quite some time now getting the projects we are currently developing up to speed with the latest SDK. Hopefully we won’t see a similar rather deep change in the coming updates.

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