Magmic’s Product Manager Jeff Bacon on BlackBerry, iPhone and NYT Brand

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Rob Woodbridge from Untether.TV is back and he’s interviewing Magmic’s Product Manager Jeff Bacon. We’ve had Jeff Bacon on BlackBerryCool several times, with his own column Bacon on BlackBerry, as well as some news tidbits. Jeff is a talented BlackBerry developer and has a lot of interesting things to say from a developer’s perspective.

In this interview, Jeff talks about Magmic’s NYT license and how they leveraged the brand to develop NYT Crossword and NYT Sudoku. The first thing that struck me during the interview, was Jeff’s comment about the fact that when they first started developing for BlackBerry, there were only a few models and implicitly suggested that development for BlackBerry has become more complicated. If a veteran developer such as Jeff is lamenting about the development process, RIM should these comments very seriously. At around 8 minutes, on the subject of costs associated with porting, Jeff says “it can get frustrating sometimes…why is someone releasing a new device that requires us to redesign a new UI for it?” The release of the BlackBerry Storm, apparently caused a lot of headaches dealing with the touchscreen, and cost the company dollars in porting and redesigning their games.

On the subject of distribution, Magmic focused on an exclusive with AT&T to promote the NYT brand. This brings up an interesting point that content is becoming increasingly valuable to carriers as a means of differentiating them from the competition. “Every carrier wants something that they can say that they have, that their competitors don’t, whether that’s a new type of device, rate plan, coverage map, or content. Content has been driving device sales for the last couple of years and will continue to moving forward.” BlackBerry is in a unique position in this regard with their ability to bring apps that the iPhone can’t supply (Skype, IM aggregators etc), thus getting the support of the carriers to sell more BlackBerrys.

When it comes to the iPhone, Jeff was really positive. When Magmic first started developing for the iPhone, it was much more powerful than the BlackBerrys on the market at the time. While Magmic was pushing the boundaries of what was possible on a BlackBerry, they found new challenges with the iPhone given that they had more processing power and memory at their disposal. Also, customers on the iPhone were used to a much different experience than BlackBerry users. Jeff gives Apple a lot of kudos for educating their users about how to use applications and setting a standard for developers that, if they adhere to, will almost guarantee that an iPhone user can pick up their application and use it without the need for help menus or tutorial.

Overall, I would say this interview summarizes some of the key competitive advantages that the iPhone provides to developers, that RIM would be smart to adopt. While BlackBerry provides a platform that can surpass the iPhone in what an application can offer, the barriers to entry need to come down.

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