Another developer storyteller at our MWC Jam is Nacho Sanchez from theChanner, makers of a mobile social TV platform. Nacho's story is about the trials and tribulations the company had in developing its product, particularly in making it cross-platform -- and how they worked with developer programs and betas of new platforms and their competitions to help drive things forward.
WIP: Hi, tell us a little about yourself and your company.
NS: I am the Lead Engineer at theChanner, a Barcelona start-up with head office in San Francisco. theChanner was founded on the summer of 2008 by Nina Alastruey, our CEO. We are the first mobile social Live TV app that allows you to watch Internet TV channels, share, discuss and participate in real time. We believe in an interactive experience between viewers and broadcasters: people building the TV of the future, interacting through social media networks in and from the app.
NS: We are now looking for content partners, i.e., broadcasters that want to bring their incredible shows to the mobile world. Our multiplatform (iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows Phone 7) app allows them to have their current stream available for every mobile platform in minutes. We are now starting to provide streaming services, too, for those broadcasters that have not accessed the Internet broadcasting world yet.
WIP: Your story is about your company's experience building a social TV app. Tell us a little bit about how it got started, and some of the problems you ran into during its development.
NS: We started three years ago, and at that moment Windows Mobile and Palm were the most sophisticated mobile platforms. So we built our first prototype for Windows Mobile and PC. The app was a great success, but it could only play Windows streamed channels and the UI was simple. When we decided to move to the new technologies, we decided to go for iPhone first. The iPhone media player does not play Windows streamed content, nor does the Android one, so here started our big first problem.
WIP: How did you overcome these issues?
NS: Well, our big first problem led to our first first big decision: we would build our own player.
Building that player, making it crossplatform to be compatible with our iPhone and Android app, and adapting it to all the new streaming formats in the market has been one of our biggest challenges. Streaming is one of the fastest evolving fields right now, and every player in the market wants to have its own technology, so we have to adapt to all those changes by making our player compatible at every step.
We use Open Source software to help in the process, with the ffmpeg libraries being our main source, and we create the layer of abstraction needed to interact with the native code of every platform. Unfortunately, there are still some platforms that don't allow native coding, making our experience a little less incredible for them.
WIP: How did you take advantage of the pre-beta programs, competitions and other offerings of developer programs to win out in the end?
NS: We have visited the main mobile exhibitions in the past years, and we've made a lot of contacts. This allows us to be aware of almost every competition and pre-beta program available. You have to pick your battles very well, because participating in any of these programs or contests takes a lot of time out the company at a stage when all you need is time to build your app. The good thing is some times you are able to use the deadlines and offerings of these programs to push some features, or promote some of the things you already have. From the marketing perspective, being part of these programs puts your name out in the field, as there is no better presentation as being finalist of a Google contest, or a Microsoft partner for their Windows Phone 7 launch.
WIP: What were some of your biggest takeaways or lessons learned from the experience?
NS: As I mentioned before, making sure you pick well how you spend your resources is a key thing. You cannot always create everything you would like to, and you cannot participate in every competition and pre-beta program available, so you have to think it through and really go for those things that will make a difference for your company and product.
WIP: If the MWC Fairy came down to grant you one wish for the show, what would it be?
NS: The wish would be for theChanner to be the official MWC mobile TV platform!! If they just gave me the URL they are streaming with, we would do the rest, and everybody could be watching what's happening in other sites of the Congress on their mobiles!!