Software engineer Satoshi Nakajima, the lead architect of Microsoft’s Windows 95, picked up a Mac for the first time two years ago.
He was so impressed, he says he’ll never touch a PC again.
Satoshi loves Apple products so much, he started a company in April, Big Canvas, to develop for Apple’s iPhone platform full-time.
“We have chosen iPhone as the platform to release our first product (for) several reasons,” explains his company’s website. “We love Apple products… You need love to be creative.”
Based in Bellevue, WA — right next to Microsoft’s home turf of Redmond — Satoshi spent nearly 14 years at Microsoft, serving as the software architect of Windows 95 and 98. He also oversaw the development of Internet Explorer 3.0 and 4.0. While at Microsoft, he developed the third largest portfolio of intellectual property of any employee at the company, according to his bio.
Last week, Satoshi released his company’s first iPhone application, Photoshare, a free, social networking app for sharing pictures with the iPhone.
Photoshare is like Flickr for iPhone photographers. The downloadable Photoshare app allows users to upload pictures to Photoshare’s website, and then share those pictures publicly or privately — without any required registration or the need for a computer.
We spoke with Satoshi about the pleasures of writing software for the iPhone SDK and got some of his thoughts about Apple’s UI, its distribution model for iPhone apps and the future of handheld communications.
The interview continues after the jump.
After working so long in the Windows environment, what attracted you to start exploring the Mac?
It was really just the look and feel, and also Apple was a competitor of Microsoft. We studied them as a competitor, so once I was outside Microsoft I felt like maybe I should learn more. So it was getting into it [initially] more like a competitor, and then to understand why some people are so into Apple products and yeah, I think I got it. The have some kind of emotional high that’s very strong, very attractive – most addictive (laughs).
What’s the biggest difference between developing for the iPhone and developing on the Windows platform?
Even though it’s based on the OS X operating system, the actual API sets we call [in Cocoa] are very different and really optimized for the iPhone environment. So a programmer can pay a lot of attention to power consumption, memory usage and most importantly, the user experience. With Windows Mobile, they simply brought Windows to mobile phones, so you program for Windows and that’s it, versus Apple’s optimization for the iPhone.
Were there other aspects of developing for iPhone that you found attractive?
The rest of the wireless world is so fragmented. We have 8 years of experience planning a business in mobile. I know that it’s so difficult to make money in the regular cell phone market because of this fragmentation, and the marketing costs, the channel costs of business development with wireless operators and then the porting costs to individual hardware way exceed the revenue, so a lot of developers lose money. With iPhone, it’s very unique because it’s one hardware, one channel, so the costs of distribution and the costs of developing for the hardware is a lot lower. And the addressable market is right now 6 million and its going to be 10 million by the end of the year, which is big enough for us.
So you’re OK with Apple’s 30% AppStore fee?
I think that’s a fair number. A lot of people are complaining about that but compared to the other costs you’d have to bear to market for multiple hardware and also the complexity of provisioning for a lot of wireless operators are costs you avoid with iPhone, because it’s a one-time cost. So I think it’s fair, yes.
How was it developing under the limitations of Apple’s SDK?
Well, I think it was a good decision to limit applications to running one at a time, if that’s what you mean. I think that limitation is very beneficial to power consumption and memory usage and we didn’t find it difficult to work around Apple’s limitations for our application at all. They updated seven times during a very short period of time and I was impressed by the amount of work they did. But it was painful to us to have to modify our code to keep up with the changes, so there was some pros and cons but I think they made the right decision to drastically improve the platform. And I know because of that a lot of application developers had a hard time to adjust and they missed the deadline or they shipped an unstable product.
What do you think about the future of Open Source mobile platforms such as Android?
That’s a good question. We’re watching it, but at this moment there’s no business reason to go there. Right now Google is offering it as a platform to build phones, not applications. So some device manufacturers, especially manufacturers in Taiwan and China, they love it because it allows them to compete with Nokia and Motorola. But for software developers, they want to make money, so at this moment they need to become job shops to either those device manufacturers or wireless operators to build the software for them. But as you know, the job shop is not a great market. Once there are Google platform based phones and somebody like Google opens an AppStore, then we can go there.
So you think the AppStore business model has a great future, not just for Apple, but that it might be the model for Google, Microsoft and whoever else wants to get in this game?
Yeah. Nokia, for sure. Every industry needs to have some kind of consolidation to optimize. Right now, all over the world, we have thousands of stores, fragmented. Very expensive to sell, and Apple has proved that having a single app store does make sense to users as well as the offerers, so I believe Microsoft, Nokia and possibly Google will follow and we’ll have five stores, and that’s ideal. It’s almost like a miracle that Apple has managed to make this happen, I think this is Mr. Job’s contribution. He did it once with the music industry and he’s doing it again with the wireless industry. And he’s doing the same thing with the applications market. His reality distortion power is amazing.