Aerize develops a variety of innovative system tools and utilities for smartphone users, and until recently specialized in apps specifically for BlackBerry devices. But all of that changed this past year.
As BlackBerry use has continued to drop off, the team at Aerize could see the writing on the wall. The Orlando, Florida-based company knew it was time to make a big move, or face the prospect of a slow and steady decline.
Mike Burch, CTO at Aerize, has more than 20 years of experience developing software, including 10 years developing for mobile and embedded, with a serious track record of successful releases for Windows, Linux, and mobile devices. In 2005 Mike won the best smartphone app award from Microsoft. After creating the first App to SD utility, called Aerize Loader, Mike drove Aerize to No. 1 in sales on BlackBerry App World.
We caught up with Mike to learn more about Aerize, and their switch to developing apps for Windows Phone as well as the Windows 8 platform, such as the free, ad-supported Aerize Optimizer (shown above).
How long have you been developing mobile apps?
I’ve been developing mobile phone apps since 2002. I have released apps for J2ME (Java), Palm OS, Windows Mobile Pocket PC, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian, QNX, and Android.
What sorts of apps does your company develop?
Aerize is about highly integrated system tools, so we are looking forward to lower level Windows Phone access in the future. We have been creating ground-breaking tools for quite some time.
What platforms do you develop for now?
Aerize has traditionally been a BlackBerry developer with products for both Legacy BlackBerry and BlackBerry 10 devices. Recently, we began porting our apps to Windows Phone.
Right now, Windows Phone is surprisingly similar to BlackBerry right before it sky-rocketed in popularity around 2008. It sure seems like this ride is about to get crazy.
In 2013 you started porting your apps to Windows Phone 8 – what made you decide to make the move?
Plummeting BlackBerry revenue forced us to select another platform from the obvious top three, Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone. I feel confident in our selection of Windows Phone; The platform has more room to grow, and with growth comes possibilities that just don’t exist with other platforms.
Are you seeing good traction for your apps in Windows Phone Store?
We received immediate traction with Windows Phone, [during one month this past fall] we have seen over 40,000 downloads. We didn’t expect this much success at release, it’s quite an eye opener as to the future possibilities of the platform.
Are the results you are seeing with your Windows Phone 8 apps making you rethink, or change your priorities when it comes to app development?
We’re quite satisfied with the decision to move our brand to Windows Phone. It’s proving to be a very strong platform, offsetting all BlackBerry revenue declines we’ve experienced. We decided early to make a commitment to a single platform. This allows us to specialize and provide best of breed tools.
Are you going to develop for Windows 8, too?
We just released Aerize Optimizer for Windows 8.1, we were able to reuse a lot of code from the Windows Phone version, but there are some big differences in the User Interface, available API’s, and system services. The initial impression is that Windows 8.1 allows deeper integration. We intend to continue releasing Windows 8.1 editions.
What considerations do you need to make for the larger screen/tablet devices?
Any Windows 8.1 tablet may have a 1080p screen in the eight to 10-inch range. It will dwarf a three to four inch phone while remaining tiny compared to a 24-inch monitor. Vector-based images are a very helpful first step. However, the User Interface needs additional consideration, too. Controls need ample room, even if they seem over-sized on a large monitor.
In testing we also realized the importance of a large outside margin for Operating System gestures; and don’t be afraid of empty space. Tablet apps will be predominantly used in landscape mode, while phones tend to be portrait. To keep the design elements in sync, develop for a square, then mold to portrait and landscape.
What advice would you give to other developers who are thinking about porting their apps to WP8?
A rocky start can really hurt the success of an otherwise great app, so make certain the app is ready for prime time before you release. Double check the description, and all of the supporting material. Test, test again, and then test some more. Make certain to listen to and understand issues and problems that your users share with you.
Also, join DVLUP immediately. The level of help Nokia and DVLUP have provided is simply amazing. From almost instant responses to inquiries, to free development devices. The welcome and appreciation we have experienced is unparalleled by any platform or manufacturer we have encountered.