Interview with David Halpin, VP Engineering, Quickoffice


Quickoffice started working on mobile iPhone apps for the Palm platform in the mid '90s and saw an opportunity to extend its office app development expertise to the iPhone when Apple launched it last year. Recently, we exchanged emails with David Halpin, VP engineering for Quickoffice.

1. You’ve just announced an update to Quickoffice’s MobileFiles Pro that adds Word functionality. Can you give me a few highlights of the new feature?

First, MobileFiles Pro has been re-branded as Quicksheet and contains all the previous functionality. Quickoffice for iPhone is a new app that includes robust Word editing capabilities including font formatting, cut, copy and paste, landscape mode [and more].

2. When will it appear in the App Store and how much will it cost?

Quickoffice for iPhone will be available at the beginning of April and will cost $19.99 initially.

3. Quickoffice will also be launching separate applications – Quickword, in addition to Quicksheet. Will both apps still have file transfer capabilities as in MobileFiles Pro?

Both of these apps will have file transfer capabilities including Wi-Fi desktop connectivity and access to MobileMe iDisk accounts. Quicksheet and Quickword will sell for $12.99.

4. What’s the rationale for separate apps? Have you found App Store buyers want one feature and not the other?

We want to cater to our users’ individual needs. We understand that some may only be interested in using just Word or Excel.

5. Your app also supports Excel. How does your Excel functionality compare to that of Mariner’s Mariner Calc? Yours only supports view mode for Excel 2007, for example.

Quickoffice retains all original formatting when saving documents and retains document integrity. While Mariner Calc supports a larger number of functions [it does not support] complex and advanced features such as images, text and number formatting, embedded files, charts, data sorting, pivot table [and more].

6. What do you think of the new 3.0 SDK? Got ideas how you might take advantage of all the new features?

We would be interested in pasteboard [cut/copy/paste]. The in-app commerce support, peer-to-peer and push notification technology also look interesting for us.

7. What’s your take on the rumor surrounding a premium app section in the App Store for apps selling for $19.99?

A premium application section would certainly benefit developers who are making a significant investment in complex iPhone applications. The users would know that these applications would be the best of the best.

8. It’s well established that low prices lead to high sales but not necessarily to high profits. What does it take to succeed in this marketplace?

We feel a very good application that provides a need will be able to command a good price point. Our pricing indicates this.

9. Increasingly, bigger companies are entering the biz with bigger budgets, larger dev teams and marketing. Whenever that happens in the software business, it’s almost always followed by a shake-out of the smaller players. Do you think that’s what will happen in the App Store?

Sometimes this happens, but users want great software at a fair price. The App Store should act as an efficient marketplace to vet out the best software at the appropriate price.

10. Dev cycles will get longer as buyers expect more from apps. What does that mean to Quickoffice and other companies?

We see pricing climbing upwards next year for premium applications.

11. Evidently, there’s a new clause in the developer contracts that requires developers to offer refunds. What are your thoughts on this?

We think this is great. We want to provide better customer service to our iPhone users with a refund if they are not satisfied with an app. We feel this builds consumer confidence to purchase our products and increases overall revenue. We also want to build customer loyalty so they try another app of ours that might better suit their purposes.

12. Many devs have concerns about the App Store pricing model. Has it been a problem for you and if so, what do you think is the problem and if so, what’s your solution?

We do not have an issue with the App Store pricing model. Rather it’s more challenging in respect to marketing with the low average selling price compared to other platforms such as BlackBerry or S60. iPhone users have become accustomed to very low-priced or free apps that mostly have a single, often novel purpose or functionality.

Trials would be great, especially with higher price points to allow users to sample our software before they purchase. However, this marketing tactic is only effective if emails are captured and developers could remarket directly to consumers, during and after trial period with incentives to convert. This is a proven model that works well for us.

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