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Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Chris Ruff, CEO of UIEvolution (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, May 7th 2012

UIEvolution is a software development company with offices in the United States and Japan. The company creates software solutions that break through the complexity of connected services by delivering native and HTML5 apps that are managed from a cloud-based platform. UIEvolution’s clients include well-known, elite enterprises like ESPN, Toyota, AT&T, Microsoft, Samsung, Hikari-TV, and many Fortune 500 companies.

Sramana Mitra: Hi Chris. If you could, give us some context about yourself and your company UIEvolution.

Chris Ruff: Well, first about myself, I ended up getting into mobile back in the late ‘90s, fell in love with the connected Palm 7 and saw it as a revolution of how mobility could bring some cool applications to market. I founded a company called Aptelix back then. We were trying to do something too hard without a good market behind it. And that company didn’t succeed like I’d hoped. I joined UIEvolution following that as the fourth employee back in 2000. I have done everything from product management to development to finance to marketing, over the years, on my way to becoming CEO of the company.

UIEvolution is a company that’s focused on applications and services on new consumer connected devices. Our biggest markets are mobile. We started over 10 years ago doing some of the earliest application and game developments on feature phones. Obviously, that business has grown into smart phones and other applications. We’ve expanded the business to other consumer products like connected television where we launched one of the world’s first IP TV set-top box application services in Japan. Last year, we were fortunate to be a part of Toyota’s in-tune connected car service here in the United States where we’re providing software for the in-car content application experience.

SM: All right. Let me ask you a basic question. I did almost 10 years of consulting before I started 1M/1M. Back in 2001, I had a client who was providing kind of like an appliance to translate Web content into various mobile form factors. So, this is something that has been going on for a long time. Some of these companies got a bit of traction, some didn’t; a lot of them didn’t get traction. If you could, help me trace this evolution of mobile content transformation or translation or something like that.

CR: It’s interesting that you brought that up. We have, over the years, competed against trans-coding, translating types of software. At its very basic level, there’s a back end Web service that goes out and scrapes content and forces it into a template on the device. It always breaks down in a couple of ways. One is there’s always a lag because you’ve built sort of a weird layer in between the Web services, and you’re not always able to keep them up to date or what not. And the other is you always have a weak user experience because all you’re doing is creating a template. So, that’s OK for simple content, but it’s not great when you want to work on compelling applications or work with big brands and big media companies. They actually require a decent amount of better user experience that they can give to their customers.

This has been going on for years, and there’s always somebody trying to do it. In today’s world, you’ll see it a lot in mobile websites where a company won’t really value the mobile website but will some sort of solution to scrape the content and put it out. Usually, these are transitional technologies, and they’re used because people can’t justify the investment because there aren’t enough users in the market to any of those sorts of things.

We look at it differently and believe that the user experience on each of these devices should be optimized and done at a very high level. But then we build some middle area in between to take care of some of the similar functionality of network connectivity and those kinds of things. So, what you’re saying is, what can I get away with moving across all of these platforms at 80% so that I can use the last 20%, which will be relatively custom to make it look great and work across all the types of places?

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Chris Ruff, CEO of UIEvolution
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