Everypoint Introduces Slick Mobile Apps for the Non-iPhone Crowd
There’s a reason why the excitement in the mobile application development world has shifted to new platforms such as the Apple iPhone and Google’s Android operating system. It’s because it’s relatively easy to write and disseminate cool software for these systems, which offer a) lots of support for powerful graphics and communications, b) access to hardware features like the phones’ built-in cameras, accelerometers, and GPS chips, and c) popular, accessible marketplaces for selling or distributing new apps to users.
But the fact remains that more than 80 percent of the cell phones sold every year are not smartphones with PC-like interactivity, like the iPhone or T-Mobile’s G1 Android phone—they’re “feature phones” with smaller screens, no keyboards, and operating systems based (for the most part) on the Java programming language. The carriers who sell these phones usually control which programs come pre-loaded on the phones’ “decks” or top-level menus, and they don’t make it easy for consumers to locate or download new programs. So it’s no wonder developers are deserting the feature phone market.
But a venture-funded Boston startup that emerged from stealth mode today—Everypoint—wants to reverse that trend. “No one is talking about all these Java devices, but they are shipping in great quantity,” says Alan MacKinnon, Everypoint’s founder, president, and CTO. “They are still the de facto standard. The problem is that the features for developers are non-existent. They are very powerful devices, but to build an application for them is very hard.”
To fix that problem, MacKinnon and his colleagues at Everypoint have spent the last three years creating a system called “Nemo” that’s designed to give feature phones smartphone-like capabilities. In a nutshell, Nemo provides a unified software environment for inexpensively developing, delivering, and running Java-based mobile applications, ranging from information services like stock tickers and weather and sports reports to instant messaging, social networking, photo sharing, and mobile games. Judging from the demos MacKinnon showed me, phone owners who open Nemo-based apps will enjoy the same slick graphics, attractive fonts, and fast access to real-time data that originally attracted many consumers to smartphones.
Everypoint is a 16-person company that has quietly raised two venture rounds totaling $14 million from local investors Venrock, Prism VentureWorks, and Fairhaven Capital (whose theme-driven investment philosophy we recently profiled). For its coming-out today, the company is releasing a full software development kit that programmers can use to start building applications that run in the Nemo environment, as well as a free beta download of the environment itself, which runs on Java phones and includes both a common graphics engine and a communications infrastructure that “pushes” data to Nemo-enabled phones, similar to the way Blackberry users get their new e-mail. The company has also developed some two dozen sample applications that run in the Nemo environment, such as a weather app and a real-time stock price display. It’s sharing the source code for these programs to give third-party developers a head start on building their own apps.
With Nemo, “developers are going to be able to develop great-looking applications on these regular devices,” says MacKinnon, a veteran of Palm, D.E. Shaw, and American Airlines. “Everyone loves their smartphones, but there are so many devices out there that need a platform like this to unleash their capabilities.”
When users download the Nemo software package for their phones (technically, it’s a “runtime environment” similar to Java itself), they also get a catalog of all the applications available for Nemo. Over time, this catalog should fill up with offerings from third-party developers, who will be able to make money by … Next Page »