API Economist: What are you seeing in the enterprise when it comes to iOS versus Android?
Allie Curry: We're still definitely seeing a whole lot of iOS. It always seems to be that the main priority is getting an iOS app out first, especially internally. If it's just an app, not a customer-facing app, it seems to be more likely that an enterprise is going to be buying iPads for their own employees than they're going to be buying Android tablets. However, there has been a shift recently. Enterprises suddenly want to have an Android app after their iOS app. Some are even starting to look at Windows Phone, but a very, very small amount.
API Economist: What types of apps are you seeing in the enterprise?
Allie Curry: I see a whole lot of customer application engagement demand lately. Everyone wants to make sure that if they can sell a product, they want to sell it to their customers on every platform that they can. Enterprises want every customer to have a catalog in their hands all the time, if possible. Whether it's their movies or their general products, they want anyone to be able to buy it at 3:00 in the morning on the middle of a street, wherever they are.
Mobile workforce productivity is another hot area where we are seeing increasing demand. We see huge productivity gains with the ability for field workers to do everything they need to do with a mobile device, such as providing real-time visibility of inventory, ordering parts, and logging a service call. Many enterprises are challenged by managing a remote workforce. Mobility allows them to ensure efficient routing to increase field worker productivity and minimize vehicle costs, by knowing where their work force is at any point in time and what those workers are doing. The return on investment is very compelling for the enterprise.
API Economist: How does developing applications for mobile differ from when you were just thinking about a web page in a browser?
Allie Curry: First of all, there is the size difference. No longer do you have the precision of a mouse. You have the precision of however big your finger is. The user experience is just a totally different ball game on a mobile application than it is on your computer. You have control over a website. Things like popups don’t work in a mobile environment. Navigation needs to be designed for the swipe of a finger on a smaller screen size.
On top of that, you have to deal with all of the different screen sizes, especially on the Android platform. iOS is not so much of a concern, but on Android, we have screen sizes that range from super tiny to bigger than my hand. Having to account for every user is an extreme challenge that we have to face every single day.
Allie Curry: I think the bigger your application, the more necessary it is to go native (i.e., iOS or Android). When you use a hybrid application, you are looking to slow down your application extremely, but at the same time, of course, you're also looking to save time making it. It also does actually come down to a money and time issue. Native might seem to be a little bit more expensive at first, because it takes extra time and development to make sure you have all those device services to create that native and perfect-looking application. It can be pretty simple to make a hybrid application through development tools such as PhoneGap.
For both iOS and Android, it seems simple to just make your mobile application and plug it into every single type of platform, but that comes with unforeseen issues. An issue may arise on the Android side, but not on the iOS side, for example. You have to handle things a little bit differently, but you can still get your app out a little bit faster.
HTML5 is great when you just have a piece of information that you're trying to get out there. There really isn't a need for an app for a restaurant menu, or something very simple. I think HTML5 is still really important and a really great way to just get information into people's hands very quickly.
On another note, I'm a big fan of jQuery. I love what they're doing with jQuery mobile, and there seem to be an endless amount of things you can do with it, so I've been dabbling into that a little bit recently on my own time.
API Economist: It seems like the mobile OS platforms like iOS and Android probably don’t want to see the world move completely to HTML5. What do you think?
Allie Curry: I definitely think a problem with HTML5 is that it's not necessarily in the best interest of mobile companies, for the phone developers. They want you to have apps. They want you to buy apps in their app stores. They want companies to be spending time building them. For example, Microsoft is out there paying other companies to make Windows Phone apps these days. Phone manufacturers want applications, so I think that does hinder HTML5 a whole lot, especially if companies are looking to make native over hybrid applications. The browser is still a big part of your mobile experience, and it's not like anyone's about to remove the browser off of their tablet.
API Economist: How do you and your team approach user interfaces and design?
Allie Curry: Although I personally don’t design the user interface, I still have to put it together. Because I am responsible for building and testing the app, I can easily tell when it’s going to be a poor user experience. Fortunately for me, we have a pretty good user interface design team, so it’s not super worrisome for me.
API Economist: How important is API design when developing mobile apps?
Allie Curry: Simplicity is key, especially in the form of good documentation. Because I understand APIs, they all need to be generic, extendable, and beautiful. But in the end, if it doesn't have good, clean documentation, then it's a no‑go. I use Android API documentation on a daily basis. It provides specific examples and clear, precise explanations of what I'm about to use.
Allie Curry: The biggest buzzword right now is contextual computing. I love the idea that I'm no longer asking my phone for information. My phone knows what information I'm already thinking about. Google Now, for instance, realizes that I am getting in the car and going to start driving. It knows I'm going home. It's telling me how long it's going to take me to get home. As they advertise, it’s the right information at just the right time. Google can even tell you to leave early for your next appointment because traffic is bad. Robert Scoble has written extensively on the topic of contextual computing. It’s quite exciting to think about the possibilities of always-connected devices and sensors, cloud computing, social media, and wearable computers like Google Glasses and the Nike Fuelband.
API Economist: You were featured as one of the top 5 female developers to watch out for on FierceDeveloper. They mention that men significantly outnumber women when it comes to mobile app development, despite the fact that women are major consumers of mobile apps. How did you get started?
Allie Curry: We've definitely always had computers in our household. Back in the mid-90s, my mother started a discussion forum for the Girl Scouts. She became the leader of the forum and its webmaster. It was the first and only major Girl Scouts forum. As a 13-year-old, I was inspired that she could build a website. I wanted to build one as well. I jumped headfirst into web development, building sites for myself and building MySpace layouts for everyone that I knew. I also took a Java class in high school to get the ball rolling. I knew then that that this was exactly what I wanted to be doing.
I wound up going to the University of Illinois at Chicago and majored in computer science. It was definitely more theory-based than I expected. During my course of study, it let me understand how to program without necessarily doing a whole lot of programming in our actual classes.
API Economist: OK, Allie, so I have to ask you…how many females were there in a typical computer science class?
Allie Curry: In a typical class of 50 people, maybe two of us were girls. [laughs]
API Economist: Did you find yourself excelling in certain subjects when you were in high school that might have helped you be prepared to go into computer programming?
Allie Curry: I was definitely in more advanced math programs. I wasn't necessarily the top of the math class, but it definitely did help with abstract concepts. Science also played a role. I really think that an interest in things like biology is relevant. We may be building virtual structures, but it’s important to understand how organic things interact together. I feel like biology, physiology, zoology, and psychology are all relevant to the field of computer science.
API Economist: Tell me your favorite mobile devices and mobile apps.
Allie Curry: I have an Android phone. I have an HTC and I have an iPad Touch, so I do like to explore both app stores a lot in my free time. My favorite app on both iPhone and Android has always been Spotify. The idea that I can carry a music library around with me anywhere is just pretty inspiring for me. Google Now is really starting to really take up a lot of my time. [laughs] I love Uber. I don't ever look for a taxi anymore—a taxi comes to me.
API Economist: Allie, thanks for your time!
Allie Curry: The pleasure was mine!